Is a travel boycott ever justified? A controversy over that claim is currently raging in the travel trade press.
I had an aunt, now deceased, who was one of the world’s gentlest creatures. She tolerated every person, found worth in every person, treated everyone with respect.
But she made one exception: for the population of Poland.
She could not forget the times, as a child, when she cowered in the basement of her family’s Polish home, closing the basement lock as protection against the herds of young Polish men who on religious holidays went marauding through the town, beating up Jews.
And according to her, the people of her town, infected with the same anti-Semitism, did nothing to stop them, an inaction that she would never forgive.
She would never again go there.
Is a boycott of Poland justified by the rampant racism of that nation in the years leading up to World War II and thereafter?
I violated my aunt’s strictures three years ago when I went to Lomza, Poland, in search of my grandfather’s tombstone. And I was shocked by the attitude of the current inhabitants of that town, who falsely professed ignorance of the location of the local Jewish cemetery.
Nor was there any other memorial or even proper recognition of the tens of thousands of Lomza’s Jewish population who were murdered by the Nazis. (With effort, I found a single, small, weather-beaten plaque on that subject on the back wall of a restaurant.)
I currently am loath to return to Poland or to recommend tourism to it. And by contrast, I am proud of having contributed to a boycott of the Union of South Africa during the years when Nelson Mandela was in prison and apartheid prevailed.
I refused to publish a guidebook to South Africa or to perform any other act that would bring visitors to that nation. And I maintained that stance until the white leaders of his country freed Nelson Mandela and allowed him to be elected President of it.
I similarly published a recent blog in this space asking our readers never to travel to Brunei or to make use of hotels owned or controlled by the Sultan of Brunei, who has recently declared that death by stoning would be visited upon homosexuals in that nation.
More recently, contrary articles have appeared in the travel trade press, claiming that such boycotts are usually counter-effective, that they simply punish the low-income workers in the place being boycotted.
Befriend the government of the offending nation, goes the reasoning of the anti-boycott press. Cooperate with them, so they will eventually see the errors of their ways, and good results will be had.
Are travel boycotts ineffective in halting outrageous behavior?
Do they harden the offenses of the offending places?
If we make friends with those demons, if we bring them our money, will they change their behavior? I’d be fascinated to hear from our readers on that subject. Please send your reactions to Afrommer17@gmail.com.