Holiday in illegal Jewish settlements, but not Russia, says Booking.com

The Dutch travel agency Booking.com will continue to profit from war crimes by maintaining accommodation and attractions in Jewish settlements (Paulo Moura - Flickr)

Tamara Nassar

The Electronic Intifada  /  September 28, 2022

Israel and its supporters are vowing to wage “diplomatic war” against online travel agency Booking.com for its plans to add a travel warning to its listings for destinations in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank.

There is still uncertainty about the exact wording that has so enraged Israeli tourism minister Yoel Razvozov.

But no matter the wording, it does nothing to satisfy Palestinian demands that settlements be removed from the website’s listings entirely.

The Dutch agency will continue to profit from war crimes by maintaining accommodation and attractions in settlements.

“Companies like Booking.com must stop operating in or otherwise promoting visits to illegal Israeli [Jewish] settlements,” PACBI, the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, said.

The steering group of the international boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, the BNC, welcomed Booking.com’s decision, but said it wasn’t sufficient.

“Despite the importance of this symbolic step, we call on Booking.com to abide by its moral and legal duty to stop facilitating all rentals in illegal Israeli [Jewish] settlements,” the BNC said.

“By continuing to rent property built on stolen Palestinian land, including in occupied East Jerusalem, Booking.com is profiting from apartheid Israel’s war crimes and supporting its relentless ethnic cleansing of Indigenious Palestinians.”

All of Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank, which includes East Jerusalem, and Syria’s Golan Heights are considered a war crime under international law.

In building settlements, moreover, Israel perpetuates human rights violations against the occupied Palestinian population, including home demolitions, forced displacement and theft of land.

By offering travel services to those settlements, Booking.com is effectively profiting from and promoting those crimes.

While the warning hasn’t been added yet, Israel and its supporters are up in arms about Booking.com’s decision and are insisting that the country is being singled out.

“Is there no abuse of human rights anywhere else?” Israeli journalist Zvika Klein said.

“Israel is the only country that will have such a warning.”

StopAntisemitism.org, an outfit that claims to fight anti-Semitism but mainly smears critics of Israel and its racist state ideology Zionism, declared that “we are once again seeing the isolation of the world’s sole Jewish nation as the travel reservation site Booking.com has issued a warning label for travelers heading to parts of Israel,” casually sweeping the West Bank as Israeli territory.

“No other country in the Middle East carries such a warning.”

Some countries, including Syria and Iran, are completely absent from Booking.com. The website does not list Cuba either.

Additionally, online booking companies have made more bold political statements when it comes to boycott calls. And that includes Booking.com.

While Booking.com has refused to remove listings of accommodations located in settlements built illegally on stolen Palestinian land, it has swiftly taken anti-Russian measures following the invasion of Ukraine.

In March, Booking.com and online rental agency Airbnb removed all Russian accommodations and attractions from their platforms.

When attempting to search for bookings anywhere in Russia, Booking.com informs that “it’s not possible to make a reservation for this region through Booking.com at this time.”

When booking in Ukrainian accommodations, the website urges customers “to make a donation in support of the humanitarian response to the war in Ukraine.”

Similarly, there are no listings in Russia on Airbnb.

In 2019, the Israel lobby successfully bullied Airbnb into reversing its decision to remove some hundred Jewish settlements from its website.

Upon announcing the decision, the San Francisco-based company received threats and lawsuits.

As a result, it reversed its decision and said it has “settled all lawsuits” filed against it by hosts, potential hosts and guests.

In a statement, Airbnb said it would not remove listings from the West Bank, but it would not profit from them either. Instead, it promised to donate any profits to humanitarian organizations.

In the case of Ukraine and Palestine, the hypocrisy has been blatant from the onset.

Russia was immediately excluded from the sports, business and cultural spheres, while Palestinians have seen teams, companies and artists cross the boycott picket line repeatedly over the years.

Boycotting a country that has violated international law has become justifiable and even a moral duty, but apparently only if this aligns with US interests and sanctions policy.

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada