Jordanian unions, along with political factions such as the Muslim Brotherhood, are planning to hold a public rally calling for a boycott on tourism for religious purposes to Jerusalem and other sites in Palestine.
The Jordanian National Committee for Anti-Normalisation represents seven opposition political parties as well as labour unions and professional associations committed to undermining the peace treaty signed by Jordan and Israel in 1994.
Getting a visa for Jerusalem amounts to recognising Israel
While Anti-Normalisation activists on Saturday urged a religious tourism boycott , local Jordanian travel agents insisted they were within their rights to offer tour packages to these sites.
Visitors to the holy sites must get a visa from the Israeli Embassy. The anti-normalisation campaigners say this amounts to recognition of Israel’s existence.
“We noticed an increase in the number of visits to Israel under the pretext of seeing holy sites in Jerusalem and other places. This must stop because it is an act of normalisation,” Hamzah Mansour, president of the National Committee for Anti-Normalisation, is quoted as telling the Jordan Times.
Travel agents ‘preying on religious sentiment’
Mr Mansour said his committee is considering holding a public event to condemn tourism to Palestine.
Mansour, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood shura council and a former MP, accused travel agents of “preying on religious sentiments” by promoting travel to Israel.
Jerusalem holy to three monotheistic faiths
Jerusalem is holy to all three monotheistic religions, being home to Al Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, which Christians believe to be the site of Christ’s death and resurrection.
This is the second time in less than two months that activists have spoken out against visits to Israel through tour packages.
There are no official figures on the number of Jordanians who visited Israel for religious purposes, but activists say more such trips were organised last year than in 2008.
Religious sites under Israeli occupation belong to us not the Jews - say travel agents
Travel agents, however, insist they have committed no wrongdoing.
A travel agent from the city of Fuheis, who preferred not to be named, said the decision whether or not to travel to Palestine should be left up to individual people.
“We don’t force anybody. This is a personal decision. People have the freedom to do what they want. Moreover, even if these places are under Israeli occupation, we must see them because they belong to us, not the Jews,” he told The Jordan Times.
Possible splits in leadership of anti-Israel groups
Unions, professional associations and activists from the Islamist movement have been campaigning against any form of normalisation with Israel since the war against Gaza one year ago.
However in November the Jordan Times reported that there seems to be a split at the top of the Anti-Normalisation Committee over strategy because several attempts to hold the third general conference of the group had been postponed at least three times last year.
Engineers Union members faced threats of expulsion for having passports stamped by Israel
In November, several members of the Jordan Engineers Union faced threats of expulsion after having their passports stamped by Israel at the King Hussein Bridge crossing.
The engineers, who had travelled to Ramallah to attend a conference in support of their Palestinian colleagues, were not penalised because Israeli officers had stamped their passports “without their consent or knowledge”, the union President Abdullah Obeidat said at the time. Obeidat is also the president of the Jordanian national trade union centre.