Online booking giants Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia and TripAdvisor are fueling human rights violations against Palestinians by listing hundreds of rooms and activities in Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land, including East Jerusalem, Amnesty International said yesterday (Tuesday). In a new report, “Destination: Occupation”, the organization documents how online booking companies are driving tourism to illegal Israeli settlements and contributing to their existence and expansion.
Israel’s settling of Israeli civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) violates international humanitarian law and is a war crime. Despite this, the four companies continue to operate in the settlements, and profit from this illegal situation.
One of the settlements included in Amnesty International’s report is Kfar Adumim, a growing tourism hub located less than two kilometers from the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar, for which Israel’s Supreme Court has given the green light for its imminent and complete demolition by Israeli forces. The expansion of Kfar Adumim and other surrounding settlements is a key driver of human rights violations against the local Arab-Bedouin community.
“Israel’s unlawful seizure of Palestinian land and expansion of settlements perpetuates immense suffering, pushing Palestinians out of their homes, destroying their livelihoods and depriving them of basics necessities like drinking water. Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia and TripAdvisor model themselves on the idea of sharing and mutual trust, yet they are contributing to these human rights violations by doing business in the settlements,” said Seema Joshi, Amnesty International’s Director of Global Thematic Issues.
“The Israeli government uses the growing tourism industry in the settlements as a way of legitimizing their existence and expansion, and online booking companies are playing along with this agenda. It’s time for these companies to stand up for human rights by withdrawing all of their listings in illegal settlements on occupied land. War crimes are not a tourist attraction.”
“Desert Camping Israel”, promoted by Airbnb, Booking.com and Expedia, allows guests to pay up to US$235 a night to “experience the tranquility of the desert and get a taste of warm Israeli hospitality.” TripAdvisor also lists a national park, a museum, a desert tour and a Bible-themed attraction on land near to Kfar Adumim. “The camping experiences on offer are located on land which the Bedouin used to use for herding. As Kfar Adumim settlement has grown many Bedouin herders have lost their livelihoods and now depend on humanitarian aid,” said Seema Joshi. “Every penny these companies earn from promoting tourism in Kfar Adumim is a profit from human rights violations. The fact that settlers are using Bedouin culture to draw in tourists adds insult to injury.”
Related: Full report by Amnesty