Skip to main content

'Stay where you are': India's outreach efforts to Israeli tourists divides social media

Following the Maldives' decision to ban Israeli passport holders entry, pro-Israel accounts have suggested India as an alternative, dividing opinions
Protestors show solidarity with Palestinians during a rally held in Male, Maldives, on 14 October 2023 (Mohamed Afrah/AFP)

Attempts by some Indian social media users to promote the country's sandy beaches and island resorts to wealthy Israeli tourists, days after the Maldives announced it was banning Israeli passport holders entry, appear to be dividing social media users.

Earlier this week, a spokesman for Maldivian President Mohamed Muizzu announced a ban on Israeli travellers without giving details of when the new law would take effect.

In response, Israel's foreign ministry recommended that its citizens not travel to the Asian archipelago nation, including those with dual citizenship.

Within hours of the Maldives' announcement, an Israeli foreign ministry account, which promotes greater ties between Israel and India, wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter, that "Since the Maldives is no longer welcoming Israelis, here are some beautiful and amazing Indian beaches where Israeli tourists are warmly welcomed and treated with utmost hospitality."

The post included photos of crystal clear waters and sandy beaches in Lakshadweep, Goa, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked


A similar tweet shared by Hananya Naftali, who worked for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's digital team, said: "The Maldives decided to ban Israeli nationals from visiting, so let me recommend you all amazing places you can visit instead - with better value for your money. India’s beaches are ready to welcome you with open arms and warm hospitality."

Under several hashtags, such as #BoycottMaldives, Indian social media users flooded social media platforms with recommendations of Indian seaside resorts and holiday getaways for Israeli jetsetters.

However, several prominent Indian social media users hit out at Israel, touting India as a prime tourist destination, and claiming, amongst other things, that Israeli tourists prevent Indians from accessing beaches and popular resorts in the country.

"So you're going to occupy all our beaches and prevent us Indians from entering it? Like you’re already doing in Goa and Kasol? No thanks. Stay where you are," said one user.

According to estimates, around 35,000 Israelis travel to Goa each year, whilst hundreds are reported to have settled permanently in Kasol, Himachal Pradesh, which is also known as "mini Israel".

Meanwhile, thousands of other social media users said the Maldives' decision was justified, considering the mounting death toll in Gaza.

 "Genocide enablers are not welcome in the Maldives. Go elsewhere," said another user.

Israel and the island nation have not had diplomatic relations since 1974, but Israeli nationals have been permitted to visit since the early 1990s when Male removed a previous ban on Israeli tourism.

Smear campaign and propaganda

Days after the diplomatic spat erupted, the British news outlet The Telegraph ran a story saying there was a "dark side" to the country, sparking criticism from social media users. 

In the article, The Telegraph questioned the tourist destination's safety for travellers, describing it as a "complicated and conflicted country".

The article was criticised by hundreds of social media users, with many accusing it of trying to "cancel" the island nation, following its row with Israel. 

Several users also pointed out that the British daily had previously published articles promoting the island as a must-visit tourist destination, leading one X user to describe the piece as "propaganda".

Others accused the outlet of trying to smear the country. 

One user wrote: "We simply prefer to ban countries that commit war crimes rather than supplying weapons so they can bomb children and burn people alive. You say dark side. I say right side of history."

MEE reached out to The Telegraph for comment but did not receive a response by the time of publication.

Since announcing the ban, the Maldives has also faced backlash from the United States, with lawmakers vowing to introduce legislation that would condition US aid to the country.

"Taxpayer dollars shouldn't be sent to a foreign nation that has banned all Israeli citizens from travelling to their country," Democrat Congressman Josh Gottheimer said on Tuesday.

According to the Maldives Ministry of Tourism, 528 Israelis visited the country in the first quarter of this year, down 89 percent from 4,644 in the first quarter of 2023. 

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.