Terrorism against tourists
October 7, 2004 5:58 PM   Subscribe

Terrorists strike tourists in Egypt...again. At least 30 people have been killed, 114 injured today when a truck bomb blew up the Hilton hotel in Taba, Egypt, a resort town in the Sinai. A concurrent explosion occurred nearby in Nuweiba, Egypt, and early casualty reports there are 4 dead, 40 wounded. The apparent target? The many Israeli families who were vacationing in the area, celebrating Simchas Torah. The less-apparent target? The $4 billion/year 7 million people/year Egyptian tourism industry, a crucial part of that country's economy. While this is not the first time that tourists from Israel have been singled out worldwide, it's also part of a decade-long pattern of mass-casualty terrorist attacks against tourists from multiple countries within Egypt. Keeping in mind that one of the most devastating economic after-effects of 9/11 was the blow it dealt to air travel and tourism worldwide, not to mention close calls and tragic events at famed tourist destinations, is tourism-terrorism going to become the wave of the future?
posted by Asparagirl (23 comments total)
I just wanted to a quote a bit from that last link in the post, for a few reasons. It was written by a professor at American University in Cairo--written in 1996, before the really big attacks on tourists started taking place in Egypt, and thus is eerily prescient. While the information is out of date, the overall point underscores just how very big and how very potentially destabilizing terrorist incidents can be, and how they affect tourists, natives, or even governments:
"Fewer than 100 tourists have been killed in Egypt over the last five years--far less than in either the US or Mexico. But still, the economic effect has been enormous, as the Egyptian economy has been deprived of billions of dollars and millions of tourists a year decide to go elsewhere.

The result has been that the Egyptian government has taken extraordinary precautions to protect foreigners-- precautions that not only violate the civil rights of Egyptians, as hundreds are rounded up after every incident and thousands await trials, but also affect the freedom of tourists themselves.

More importantly for the future, perhaps, is that these precautions may in fact increase the resentment of locals against tourists and foreigners as a whole, as it becomes more than obvious that the government considers the safety of foreigners to be far more important than the civil rights of its own citizens...

Added to the previous attack on an American in Cairo, it would become the latest talk-show circuit crowd-pleaser as pundits vie to interpret the situation as a coordinated attack on American/French/Foreign interests that demands strong action--perhaps against "terrorism", or perhaps against the government of Egypt, already under severe attack for its stand against the Israeli nuclear arsenal. It would become a way to grind axes and perhaps even to begin wielding them, further undercutting the stability of the region.

Thus the irrationality of my insignificant situation can only be explained by appealing to the irrationality of international politics. In order to prevent any possibility of some foreigner such us ourselves from getting into trouble, the local security personnel were compelled to restrict our movement and mistreat their citizens not for our sakes but for their own."
posted by Asparagirl at 6:11 PM on October 7, 2004

Listening for the condemnation of the world court, the UN, and the Metafilter community. I'm sure it'll come soon. I mean, even if I can't find it on a quick search of Google News, (another attempted search here)

I'm sure there'll be one coming soon. Or one at the UN website...

Maybe the condemnation will come tomorrow.
posted by swerdloff at 7:29 PM on October 7, 2004

meanwhile in northern gaza - 20 children are killed in israeli offensive - more than 130 killed in 2004alone. and the vicious cycle of violence continues.
posted by specialk420 at 7:49 PM on October 7, 2004

This sounds like a stupid joke setup, but I'm seriously asking this: why do people go to these countries in such a climate?

I ask because it seems that everywhere has a heavy tourism industry. Yet I don't ever hear about tourism ventures into Belfast in the late 90's, or Columbia in the late 80's... yet amidst what is clearly the most dangerous and tense foreign crisis anywhere in the world right now, people seem to flock to Israel, Egypt, and other areas of the "Holy Land." I understand the concept of religious pilgrimage, but that seems more like fanatacism than devotion.

As for the issue of Israelis being restricted on vacation, I'm really hard-pressed at how this is either a suprise, or something to be considered a top problem considering every other clusterfuck going on over there. Agree with it or not, Israel is a per-capita military superpower, currenly in disputed control of what several million people consider another country. Significant portions of Israel are practically military fiefdoms, and their response to an entire race being mad at them is taking chunks of land that, again, several million people disagree with the entitlement to and sealing it off with concrete and barbed wire. I guess in shorter form, my response to the statement that terrorists are looking to kill Israelis outside of Israel is... well, duh.

Terrorists are blowing up everything combustible in this area. People are dying, and problems (agreeable and disagreeable) are simply not being addressed in terms of resolving this outside of demands for further violence in retaliation.

I'm not really sure what else to say, because it's clear that it will simply delve into another argument about the Palestinian/Israeli peace process, of which my suggestions I'm sure Asparagril would prefer I direct toward a brick wall. I just feel it seems like this is a very specific item that spreads into a broader question of "why is it so hard for Israel to be comfortable among the rest of the world?" and it seems very facetious to act as if that question hasn't been answered by said rest of the world yet.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:51 PM on October 7, 2004

meanwhile in northern gaza - 20 children are killed in israeli offensive - more than 130 killed in 2004alone. and the vicious cycle of violence continues.

And here comes the condemnation! Well, I guess those Israelis had it coming then. Is it time to throw around accusations of islamophobia yet? I'm here all day...

why is it so hard for Israel to be comfortable among the rest of the world?

Why indeed.
posted by Krrrlson at 7:57 PM on October 7, 2004

Count me in for condemnation. I have visted both resorts with my Israeli friends. What I am hearing from them is that a large portion of the hotel was (as usual) filled with Arab Israelis, who love Taba. The insiders who helped plan this obviously knew that... showing the depravity of those involved-- it doesn't matter if the victims are Muslim, Jewish... it's just for show.
posted by cell divide at 8:17 PM on October 7, 2004

i'm visiting israel in december. to claim it's "clearly the most dangerous and tense foreign crisis anywhere in the world right now" is ludicrous. take a look at chechnya, congo, algeria, iraq, liberia, pakistan, somalia, tajikistan, albania, rwanda, and burundi before making blanket statements.
posted by jcruelty at 8:37 PM on October 7, 2004

Aaaah, this is the kind of I/P thread I so fondly remember...

You want a condemnation? I condemn any vile, evil fucker who feels it's their duty to kill another human being out of a fundamentalist belief that they are fighting a "holy war" or, alternatively, that they are one of god's "chosen people" in a "promised land". Whether that human being is a teenage school girl trying to run from bullets, or whether they are an innocent tourist trying to relax in the sun. It's all the same to me - people who didn't deserve to have their body riddled with bullets or torn apart by Semtex.

If this part of the world is really the "holy" land, none of the cretins who indulge in this shit belong there.
posted by Jimbob at 8:57 PM on October 7, 2004

I'm kind of not getting the "where are the calls for condemnation" business. Is there anyone on here who doesn't think that terrorism is bad? Is there anyone on here who doesn't think the cycle of violence in the Middle East is bad?

I think we all agree on that. What we disagree on is what we think are the best ways to address the problem.

Asparagirl, were the tourists really there "to celebrate Simchas Torah" though? My recollection is that Simchas Torah is part of the Sukkos holidays--the last of eight days, yes?--and if one were celebrating it in a religious sense, one would be at home in one's leafy booth, not at a resort hotel in Egypt.

Of course, non-religious tourists might well have taken advantage of the holiday closure of business to take a vacation, but that's a different matter than "celebrating Simchas Torah". The wording of your post, perhaps inadvertently, suggests that the tourists were there on some sort of religious pilgrimage, rather than simply on a vacation.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:08 PM on October 7, 2004

"Maybe the condemnation will come tomorrow."

But somehow it just won't be enough for you, will it?
We get it.
Israel and USA - good
Rest of the world - bad
posted by 2sheets at 9:11 PM on October 7, 2004

Um, skallas? How did we get on the subject of the Rabin assassination when the post is mainly about: 1) this particular terrorist attack in Egypt, 2) the growing attractiveness of "soft target" tourists and tourist spots worldwide (Bali, etc.) for terrorist attacks, 3) Egypt's recent history of terrorism against tourists of many nationalities, 4) some combination thereof?

Because if the point of your citation was to say that hey, there are extremists on both sides, you might have chosen not to selectively leave out the very next words in that web page you cited: "Yigal Amir's views and mad act were utterly rejected by Israelis, even Rabin's most severe critics. The right wing Knesset parties expressed, without exception, their shock and abhorrence..." Meanwhile, Hamas and other groups in the Palestinian Territories do not, as a general rule, express their shock and abhorrence over terrorist attacks on civilians. In fact, support for them is written into their very own charters, which explicitly state that the only valid way to resist is by physical and violent tactics.

But, grabbing this thread by the scruff and dragging it back on topic, it is not yet known that a group like Hamas attacked the hotels--they tend to attack only within Israel, not other Arab states--so what if it's some other group that's responsible? Like the Egyptian group that has murdered tourists in Luxor and Cairo? Or what if it's al Qaeda? What are the long-term effects on Egypt or its relationship with Israel?

Or how about this: Sharon, as you may know, is actually pulling Israel out of Gaza entirely within the next two years, and will be handing it over to Egypt, the PA, and/or some combination thereof, with UN and EU peacekeepers planned. If a Palestinian group did set these bombs, how does that affect Egypt's eventual treatment of the Palestinians when they're the ones running Gaza in 2006?
posted by Asparagirl at 9:12 PM on October 7, 2004

jimbob - well said.

what was it that someone said about the real axis of evil: "christianity, judaism and islam" ?
posted by specialk420 at 9:15 PM on October 7, 2004

Terrorism aimed at tourists is horribly efficient, of course--you can kill people from lots of other countries without ever leaving home.

There's a quite good article in The Australian about these terrible events.

At least the overall death toll looks like it will be relatively low, though obviously that's no consolation to the individuals lost, or their families and friends.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:25 PM on October 7, 2004

specialK, you're leaving out Hinduism, which has played its part in the "killing for God" horrors as well.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:26 PM on October 7, 2004

The wording of your post, perhaps inadvertently, suggests that the tourists were there on some sort of religious pilgrimage, rather than simply on a vacation.

Oops, good point. Sorry about that, no pilgrimages here. But Simchas Torah is the obligated-to-get-wasted-and-study-Torah-all-night-and-dance-a-lot holiday. So if you're religious, a resort might still be a good place to do that, and if you aren't, you can get always take your vacation time, get drunk at the hotel bar, and pretend you're religious.
posted by Asparagirl at 9:29 PM on October 7, 2004

I'm kind of not getting the "where are the calls for condemnation" business. Is there anyone on here who doesn't think that terrorism is bad?

This is how wingnuts attempt to frame the discussion. You can safely assume that anyone who uses the words "the world court, the UN, and the Metafilter community" in a sentence isn't really interested in hearing anything other than their own personal echo chamber.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 9:36 PM on October 7, 2004

Fair enough, Asparagirl. Given that I've been known to "celebrate Christmas" by going to the Caribbean and ordering umbrella drinks, I was reading the language of your post too narrowly.
posted by Sidhedevil at 9:40 PM on October 7, 2004

> This sounds like a stupid joke setup, but I'm seriously asking this: why do people go to these countries in such a climate?

Actually, it sounds a little more like a stupid What was she doing in that hotel room anyway? setup. Nothing personal.

First of all, you're sliding off-topic. The majority of the tourists at Taba would have been Israeli or Egyptian in the first place. Taba is a unique case: because Israel held onto it longer than most of the Sinai, when they handed it over, it retained a special visa status for Israelis. A good chunk of the 400,000 Israelis who visit Egypt each year probably go to Taba; there are hotels in Cairo as well, which cater specially to Israelis. The Taba Hilton was built specifically for this tourist trade. (Consider that half of the shoreline in "Israel" is actually in the Gaza Strip.) With established bilateral relations, Egypt is one of the few local destinations open to Israelis.

Taba is a target both because it has lots of Israelis but because of its cultural significance and its history. As a meeting place for Arabs and Israelis, it almost certainly has a high ratio of tolerant liberals from both sides. Its history includes the 1995 Taba Agreement, aka Oslo II, which divvied up Palestinian and Israeli areas; it's hosted other peace talks over the years. The symbolism could hardly be more telling.

The saddest part of this is that it will further harden attitudes and prolong conflict.

Returning to XQ's original question, some people go to places for the danger, but others go for business or for missionary purposes -- religious or secular. Even countries with a lot of instability are safe outside of certain zones; and in the end most people don't have to worry about the risk of terrorism. For Israelis, certainly, death by suicide bomb has almost become a part of background noise. When you live that way at home, you might even feel safer in someplace like Taba.
posted by dhartung at 10:13 PM on October 7, 2004

The wave of the future?
posted by delmoi at 11:25 PM on October 7, 2004

is tourism-terrorism going to become the wave of the future?

We are a couple of days short of the anniversary of the Bali bombing. I'd say it's the wave of the past.

The fuckers.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 11:58 PM on October 7, 2004

the only way to solve this horrible mess is obviously to build more settlements in the occupied Territories, now

I also join the UN, Jesse Jackson, George Soros and Hillary Clinton in my stern condemnation of swerdloff
posted by matteo at 2:00 AM on October 8, 2004

Its about time people stopped hiding their hate and bigotry using religion and just admit they have a thing for racism and ethnic cleansing and be done with it.

It's highly doubtful that Hamas or Arafat would actually admit to these things, but we can always hope. Perhaps European divestment from the PLO might help?
posted by gwint at 9:05 AM on October 8, 2004

good idea: a simultaneous cut of all American aid to Israel would just do the trick.
then we'd see the two sides finally fighting each other with their bare hands. or, you know, hitting each other's heads with the book of Genesis (the settler's main legal document for the claims on the West Bank), spitballs, stuff like that.
it's also hard to crush civilians under bicycles, so everybody wins
posted by matteo at 9:45 AM on October 8, 2004

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