Efrat is a settlement of close to 10.000 people located near Bethlehem in the West Bank. A visit there revealed that the settlement’s own travel agent, Efrat Tours: Travel and Tourism is an accredited agent of IATA -the international Air Transport Association- which has its headquarters in Canada. IATA describes the aim of its business as representing, leading and serving the airline industry. The company also maintains the Timatic database, which contains cross border passenger documentation requirements.
To merely be the accreditor of an already existing business might not seem like the worst corporate faux pa in the circumstances, but what IATA’s presence in Efrat represents is deeply troubling on both a real and a symbolic level. On their web-site IATA describe themselves as ‘providing visibility and credibility on premises and web-sites’ of companies which succeed in gaining IATA Accredited Agent Status. In other words, by endorsing Efrat Tours, IATA legitimise tourism to and from illegal settlements. Whilst the settlers can book their flights around the world without leaving Efrat, the movements of Palestinians down the road are heavily restricted by checkpoints, road blocks and closed military zones, making even a trip to see family members in close-by villages an unpredictable journey that can take hours. Most Palestinians living close to Efrat can only dream of visiting Jerusalem -which is only about half an hour’s drive away- as a majority lack permission to enter what is supposed to be their capital.