Proposed Bill Will Prevent Palestinian Residents from Working as Tour Guides in Jerusalem

(Haifa, Israel) On 19 October 2010, Adalah sent an urgent letter to the Israeli Minister of Tourism, the Minister of Justice and the Attorney General to demand that a recently-tabled Knesset bill that seeks to ban Palestinians from working as tour guides in Jerusalem on the pretext that they “present the foreign tourists with anti-Israeli positions” be rejected. The letter, written by Adalah Attorney Sawsan Zaher, was sent a letter on behalf of two Arab tourist guide unions, with over 300 members, as well as 36 tourist offices in East Jerusalem.

The majority of tourists in East Jerusalem are foreign tourists, numbering some 600,000-700,000 people per year. The majority of the guides who work in these offices are qualified under Israeli law after completing a training period of over two years, and at a cost of around US $8,000. With 67% of the population of East Jerusalem living below the poverty line, this bill, if passed, stand to have a damaging economic impact on thousands of Palestinian residents of East Jerusalem. 

The bill stipulates that: any tourist group with a minimum of 11 tourists must be “accompanied by a qualified Israeli tour guide”; and all foreign tour groups traveling by motor-vehicle must be accompanied by a “qualified Israeli tour guide”. 

In the letter, Adalah states that this law was specifically designed to prevent Palestinian tour guides, residents of East Jerusalem, from working as they are not citizens of Israel. This condition flagrantly violates the right of Palestinian tour guides to work, as stipulated in Israel's Basic Laws. Moreover, preventing Palestinian tour guides from working in Jerusalem discriminates against them on the basis of their nationality and legal status. Adalah further emphasized that the bill is in violation of international law, according to which East Jerusalem is occupied territory, and which prohibits Israel from causing harm to the local economy and from altering the city's historical and religious identity.

The Letter (Hebrew)