Invited to Witness: Solidarity Tourism Across Occupied Palestine

Jennifer Kelly
Feminist Studies
UC Santa Cruz

In a context of proliferating solidarity delegations to Palestine, this multi-sited ethnographic study analyzes the relationships between race, state violence, and movement-building in a site where tourism and military occupation function in tandem. Drawing from participant observation of solidarity tours and interviews with guides, organizers, community members, and tourists, the project argues that solidarity tourism in Palestine functions as a fraught political strategy, and an emergent industry, through which Palestinian organizers refashion conventional tourism to the region by extending deliberately truncated invitations to tourists to witness the deleterious effects of Israeli state practice. It describes the invitation as a genre, marked by the repetition of certain conventions, and theorizes who the invitation is for, what it is meant to do, and how those subjects we understand as “toured” redefine the invitation in order to contest militarized and racialized violence. “Invitation” is not immediately understood as a critical ethnic studies keyword, nor is it a centrally theorized concept in the literature on tourism. But in Palestine, where Palestinians do not control either their borders or the historical narrative, tour guides are working to reclaim both the “permission to narrate,” in Edward Said’s words, and the capacity to invite.