Digital tourism giants Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia and TripAdvisor are profiting from “war crimes” by offering services in illegal Israeli settlements, said a report published on Wednesday.
Amnesty International’s Destination: Occupation study called on the companies to stop listing tourist accommodation, activities, and attractions in settlements in the occupied territories.
“They are doing so despite knowing that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is governed by international humanitarian law under which Israeli settlements are deemed illegal,” said the report.
“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.”
Amnesty accused the firms of “normalising” settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.
“To boost bookings, many listings in settlements boast of their proximity to areas of natural beauty in the occupied territories, such as the Dead Sea, nature reserves and the desert,” the report said.
“By listing and promoting these natural features and nature-based activities and attractions, the digital companies are increasing the attractiveness of the listings, securing greater numbers of tourists and ultimately benefiting financially from the illegal exploitation of Palestinian natural resources.”
Under international law the Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories are illegal.
Amnesty launched a campaign in 2017 calling on governments to prevent businesses based in their countries from operating in Israeli settlements.
“Governments worldwide must take action to regulate companies or activities over which they have control,” the report said.
Future of Palestine
In November 2018, Airbnb announced it would remove all listings in Israeli settlements in the West Bank “that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians”.
Amnesty, however, criticised the fact Airbnb did not extend that decision to East Jerusalem.
In response, the Jewish human rights organisation, Simon Wiesenthal Centre, placed Airbnb on its end-of-year list of the “top 10 worst global anti-Semitic incidents”, in light of its decision.
A group of American citizens also filed a discrimination lawsuit against the company.
Israel occupied the West Bank, Gaza Strip, part of the Golan Heights and occupied East Jerusalem following the 1967 Six-Day War.
More than 600,000 Israelis now live in the illegal settlements of West Bank and East Jerusalem.
The Palestinians want these areas and the Gaza Strip for their own state of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital. Israel claims all of Jerusalem as its capital.
On Twitter, Israeli Cabinet Minister Gilad Erdan called the Amnesty statement “an outrageous attempt to distort facts, deny Jewish heritage & delegitimize Israel”.
The World Jewish Congress said it was disheartened by the report and called on Amnesty to shift its focus back to human rights.
“Amnesty International is a serious and respected human rights organization, whose work to stop abuses around the world should never be underrated, but its singular focus on corporate entities doing business in Israeli settlements is gravely misguided,” Executive Vice President Robert Singer said.
“If Amnesty wishes to involve itself in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, it should center its attention on the real human rights abuses ongoing in Palestinian territories, and not attack corporate businesses who strive to bridge divides and build peace through global tourism and interaction.”