listing properties in Israeli settlements:...
Digital companies are revolutionizing how the world does tourism. Corporations like Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia and TripAdvisor, which dominate the multi-billion-dollar global online tourism industry, have become hugely successful. These companies all also list numerous hotels, B&Bs, attractions or tours in Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). They are doing so despite knowing that Israel’s settlements are illegal under international law, and a war crime.
These companies also know that Israeli settlements have a negative impact on a vast number of human rights of the Palestinian population. This has been extensively documented by the United Nations and independent international organizations, including Amnesty International and many Palestinian and Israeli organizations. Any basic preliminary risk assessment by the companies would reveal that any business activity in or with settlements would unavoidably contribute to sustaining an illegal situation, as well as a regime that is inherently discriminatory and abusive of the human rights of Palestinians.
All four companies claim to operate under high ethical values and respect for the rule of law. However, none of these standards appears to influence the companies’ decisions in relation to settlement listings. In doing business with settlements, all four companies are contributing to, and profiting from, the maintenance, development and expansion of illegal settlements, which amount to war crimes under international criminal law.
Following a class action lawsuit by Israeli lawyers, in November 2018 Airbnb announced - but has not yet implemented - the removal of ~200 listings in Israeli settlements in the “occupied West Bank”. Responding to the announcement Amnesty International’s Business and Human Rights Researcher, Mark Dummett said: “Airbnb’s decision to continue to allow accommodation listings in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank is a reprehensible and cowardly move that will be another devastating blow for the human rights of Palestinians.
“This decision is a deeply shameful abdication of Airbnb’s responsibility as a company to respect international humanitarian and human rights law wherever they operate in the world. This includes Israel’s illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. It also exposes the hollowness of their claims to be a company that values human rights.
“Airbnb are trying to absolve themselves by stating they will donate the profits from these listings to charity, but that fails to change the fact that by continuing to drive tourism to illegal settlements they are helping to boost the settlement economy. In doing so, they are directly contributing to the maintenance and expansion of illegal settlements, a breach of the Geneva Conventions and a war crime under Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. “Airbnb had a clear opportunity to make the right decision to uphold human rights and use their influence to set a precedent in the tourism industry. Instead, they have chosen to bury their heads in the sand - ignoring blatant evidence that they are helping to fuel violations that cause immense suffering to Palestinians.”
“Airbnb’s reversal demonstrates why we can’t just rely on companies to take the right decisions, and that we need governments to fulfil their obligations by intervening and passing laws obliging their companies to respect human rights.”
Promotion of Israeli settlements in the OPT as a tourist destination also has the effect of “normalizing”, and legitimizing to the public what is recognized under international law as an illegal situation. Over the past 52 years, the expansion of Israel’s settlements have pushed thousands of Palestinians out of their homes, destroyed their livelihoods, and deprived them of access to essential resources such as water and agricultural land.
As well as the financial gains, the Israeli government has political and ideological reasons for developing a tourism industry in the West Bank. Settler groups supported by the Israeli government emphasize the Jewish people’s historic connections to the region. Israel has constructed many of its settlements close to archaeological sites to make the link between the modern State of Israel and its Jewish history explicit. At the same time, Israel downplays or ignores the significance of non-Jewish periods at archaeological and historic sites.
The designation of certain locations as tourist sites is also used by the Israeli government to justify the takeover of Palestinian land and homes. This has resulted in forced evictions as well as restrictions on the ability of Palestinian residents to establish or expand their homes or use land for agricultural purposes.
Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have repeatedly highlighted how online tourism companies that operate in settlements in the occupied West Bank are contributing to mass human rights violations. Settlements are illegal under international law - their creation amounts to a war crime. Settlements are on stolen Palestinian land. They should not be tourist destinations.