Israel threatens a ‘diplomatic war’ over Booking.com’s new West Bank safety guidance

A Jewish settlement (Najeh Hashlamoun - APA Images)

Michael Arria

Mondoweiss  /  September 26, 2022

Israeli officials are threatening a “diplomatic war” against a digital travel company over its new warning on its listings in the illegally-occupied West Bank.

Israeli officials are condemning Booking.com’s recent decision to display a safety warning on its listings in the illegally-occupied West Bank.

Last week the Dutch travel company told the AP that it would notify customers traveling to Israeli settlements that the areas are “disputed, conflict-affected or high-risk” and “may pose greater risks.” Booking.com is still developing the phrasing and it’s unclear when these warnings will actually be implemented.

Human rights groups like Amnesty International have accused corporations like Booking.com, Expedia, Airbnb, and TripAdvisor of “profiting off war crimes” by promoting properties in Israeli settlements.

The move was immediately greeted with harsh criticism in Israel. The country’s Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov told Ynet TV that the decision was “political” and that he’d written to the company threatening a “diplomatic war” if it was not reversed. “Millions of tourists visit Israel, including this area,” said Razvozov. “In the end of the day, there is no problem.”

Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu claimed that the warnings amounted to a boycott of Israeli settlements and attacked the “ignorance and hypocrisy” of the company. “Booking, you should really read the Book, the Bible. You know why Judea is called Judea?,” he said in a video posted to Twitter. “Because that’s where Jews come from. It’s been our homeland for close to 4,000 years. You should really get a history lesson.”

The warnings have been celebrated by Palestine activists and organizations. “We applaud the decision by Booking.com to recognize the reality of the occupation and the human rights abuses resulting from Israeli apartheid policies,” said Council on American-Islamic Relations Executive Director Nihad Awad in a statement. “More corporations should call out Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestinian land and its system of racial, religious and ethnic segregation.”

Adalah Justice Project Executive Director Sandra Tamari told Mondoweiss that the news was welcomed, but stressed that pressure still needed to be applied. “Booking.com, if it goes through with a warning label on West Bank listings, is taking a good first step by acknowledging that sites ‘hosted’ by Israeli settlers in the West Bank are on occupied land,” she said. “We must applaud that decision while continuing to push them to delist all settler listings. Our movement is strong enough to win this fight, but it will take all of us to make that happen.”

The group is calling for signatures on a petition that is being sent to Booking.com CEO Glenn Fogel. “The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights make clear that companies have a responsibility to respect international humanitarian law. We urge you stand strong against pressure from the Israeli regime that is determined to continue to violently steal and annex Palestinian lands,” it reads. “You have the power to stop fueling the violation of Palestinian human rights by delisting properties on stolen Palestinian land that benefit the settlement enterprise that is destroying Palestinian lives.”

In 2018 the digital tourism company Airbnb announced that it was delisting properties from West Bank settlements, only to reverse its decision after it faced backlash and a number of lawsuits.

Michael Arria is the U.S. correspondent for Mondoweiss