Thousands of Israelis are cancelling their holidays in Turkey after Israel attacked the aid convoy on its way to Gaza. Flights from Tel Aviv to tourist destinations on Turkey’s south and west coast have been cancelled, and the same goes for cruise ship stopovers and hotel bookings. Turkey has for long been a popular destination for Israelis, but that seems to be all over now. But what do they really have to fear? Are Turks so angry that Israeli tourists are no longer safe here?
I don’t think so. The anger and condemnation of the attacks on the Turkish aid ship Mavi Marmara is huge of course, and the sentiments against Israel are deepening and broadening: people from all levels of society came to protests yesterday at the Israeli consulate in Istanbul and the embassy in Ankara. Some tried to storm the buildings, but the police prevented that from happening, and otherwise no violence occurred. The slogans are sometimes harsh and Israeli flags were burned, but does that mean Turks would attack Israeli tourists? I don’t see any signs of that, and so far no Israeli tourist visiting Turkey has got into any trouble – I’ll let you know if that changes.
Besides, tourists mainly come to the west and south coast, where the tourist season started some weeks ago. The people working in tourism only want to do one thing between now and autumn: earn enough money to make it to the next tourist season, starting April 2011. They work hard, have no time to demonstrate and can’t afford to lose guests because of international incidents. In the past there have been some hotels refusing Israeli guests due to Israeli politics, but they are in general not supported, and are even condemned for it by their fellow hotel owners. In the end, every lira earned is a loaf of bread. Who cares if that lira comes from a German, American, Pakistani, Russian, Arab or Israeli?