The best jokes are true: divergent imaginings of Tel Aviv

August 9, 2012 § Leave a comment

A popular joke among critics in Israel-Palestine goes: “What’s the only European city without a Muslim population?”

A: Tel Aviv.

The city boasts a fantastic nightlife and a thriving gay scene. And very few Palestinians, to boot! No wonder Tel Aviv is ranked in the top 10 of the Lonely Planet Travel Guide’s: Ultimate Party Cities.

The travel guide website states: “Nowadays an international crowd joins native Israelis [in Tel Aviv].” In this imagining of Tel Aviv, indigenous Palestinians are conspicuously unaddressed.

Another image isn’t possible Mayor argues

Tel Aviv Municipality’s Mayor: Ron Huldai, used the absence of Palestinians, and Arabs more generally, as an argument for keeping Arabic out of the Municipality’s official logo. The Tel Aviv – Jaffa Municipality rejected a proposal to include Arabic in addition to the Hebrew and English on the logo.

Meretz City Council member, Ahmad Mashrawi, submitted the proposal in order to demonstrate the city’s multiculturalism and to acknowledge Tel Aviv-Jaffa’s 17,000 Arab residents (Mizrahi Jews, Druze and Palestinians).

Mayor Ron Huldai, argued that Arabs only make up 4% of the Tel Aviv-Jaffa population and do not merit Arabic text in the city’s symbol.

Upturned stones

Tel Aviv beach inspectors – in charge of enforcing beach laws and ensuring cleanliness – have also been observed cleansing the summer beaches of Palestinians. A recent Haaretz article spotlights Palestinian ‘illegals’ who carry Jerusalem or West Bank residency, but live and work in Israel performing intermittent jobs. “Israel has become a nation of informers…and that’s what beach inspectors are,” states the article.

Another Haaretz article this week describes Tel Aviv municipal resources preferentially allocated to Orthodox Jewish schools over Palestinian or secular schools.

Tel Aviv’s open-minded “European-ness” bitterly contrasts with its xenophobic tendencies, not only to Palestinians. In late May, race riots in southern Tel Aviv shocked local and international observers alike. The riots were characterized by extreme and open violence towards African migrants and asylum seekers. The attacks unearthed another texture of Israeli xenophobia, which is expected in regards to Palestinians, but not black people.

*This article was originally published by the Alternative Information Center on 9 August 2012. 

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