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Published on : Friday, June 19, 2015
During an international religious tourism conference held in Bethlehem, Rifai told Ma’an that Palestine was chosen to host the conference because it is “an import component of the UNWTO and because of its rich religious, historic and human legacy.”
The UNWTO has plans to carry out several activities and events in Palestine which will positively affect the tourism sector, added Rifai. “The Palestinian people will feel how the outside world cares about them through helping improve Palestinian economy and standard of living.”
Participants in the religious tourism conference, according to Rifai, have come up with “very positive impressions about tourism in Palestine” and that will have impact in future.
Increasing the tourism sector is one of several ways that Palestinian leadership is attempting to work with international bodies in order to counter Israeli exploitation on Palestinian land and resources.
The PLO issued a statement in April 2015, stating that “Israeli measures and policies rise to an effective and de facto annexation of the tourism sector…Israel’s occupation has turned a potential source of income and shared opportunity into a story of theft and lost potential.”
The Israeli Ministry of Tourism has in the past printed material designating Bethlehem as an Israeli destination, with brochures targeting Christian pilgrims marketed several Christian sites including the Church of Nativity in Bethlehem as Israeli sites.
In response, PLO Negotiations Affairs Department argued that scenarios like this violate UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions 181, 242, and 338, by both excluding Palestinians from tourism revenue while denying the link of Palestinian Christians ownership to an integral part of their history and identity