TripAdvisor and human rights violations in Israel
For many people around the world the summer holidays are about to begin. They are logging on to Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia or TripAdvisor without a second thought. Few will realise that as well as helping holidaymakers book beach holidays, city breaks, budget hotels and bargain flights, these companies are boosting tourism to Israeli settlements that violate international law and are thereby contributing to a system of institutionalized discrimination and mass human rights violations suffered by hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.
Palestinian people who live in occupied territories always fear that their homes or other property could be demolished at any time. They also face systematic violence and harassment at the hands of Israeli settlers who regularly vandalize and damage olive trees, saplings and other property owned by Palestinians, fly drones above their tents to intimidate them, and physically and verbally assault them.
One of these areas is the village of Khirbet Susiya, home to some 300 Palestinians, and is a small village located in the South Hebron Hills, in the south of the West Bank. Susya was established in 1983 on land belonging to the Palestinian residents of Khirbet Susiya, displacing a community that had lived around the ancient ruins of Susya and the surrounding farmland for decades. In 1986 the Israeli authorities declared the ruins and village land an archaeological site and forcibly evicted all its Palestinian inhabitants. The dispossession of the Palestinian community and the establishment of the settlement are war crimes; the very existence of the settlement is a violation of international law.
This archaeological site, is listed as a tourist attraction by TripAdvisor. TripAdvisor listed more than 70 different properties, activities and attractions in illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). By promoting the illegal sites to tourists around the world TripAdvisor is profiting from boosting the economy of a settlement built on stolen land that is driving human rights violations against Palestinians.
“TripAdvisor continues to promote the settlement-linked attractions in Susya despite the well documented, ongoing human rights violations they have caused. By doing so, TripAdvisor is choosing to continue contribute to, and benefit from these violations.” Said Sabrina Tucci, Amnesty campaigner on business and human rights.
Companies have a responsibility to respect human rights and comply with international law wherever in the world they operate. This includes a responsibility to avoid causing or contributing to violations and the obligation to address such violations when they occur. Yet Amnesty International’s calls to TripAdvisor to stop listing attractions in illegal settlements like Susya have been ignored.
Also, in November 2018, Airbnb announced it would stop offering around 200 listings on its site for holiday properties in Israeli settlements located in the Palestinian West Bank. The US company said it had taken the decision after spending a “considerable time speaking to various experts” and in light of the settlements being “at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians”.
The companies’ promotion of settlements as a tourist destination help to “normalise” and legitimise them to the public. Settlements are on stolen Palestinian land. They are illegal under international law and they should not be tourist destinations. Holidays are supposed to be fun, not part of a wider system of human rights abuse. Since 1967, when Israel captured and occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the Israeli government has promoted the creation and expansion of settlements. According to the article 49 of fourth Geneva Conventions “an occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies”. Also the establishment and maintenance of settlements are also war crimes under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
Settlements have a devastating impact on a wide range of human rights of the Palestinian people, including their rights to an adequate standard of living, to housing, to health, to freedom of movement and to education. The existence of settlements also cripples the Palestinian economy.