New Booking.com advisory will not refer to West Bank settlements as being in occupied territory

A Palestinian waves his country's flag next to the Jewish settlement outpost of Evitar, in the village of Beita, north of Nablus (AFP)

MEE Staff

Middle East Eye  /  October 2, 2022

Israeli officials hail decision by hotel-booking website, which they say came after ‘discreet and effective dialogue’.

Global hotel-booking website Booking.com, in a new travel warning, will not refer to listings in illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank as being in occupied territory. 

The alert, which came into effect on Friday, has been softened after the website initially planned to tell users that “visiting the area may be accompanied by an increased risk to safety and human rights or other risks to the local community and visitors”.

After pushback from Israeli officials, the new warning instead urged customers to review their government’s travel advisories before booking in the area, “which may be conflict-affected”.

Omar Shakir, Human Rights Watch director for Israel and Palestine, said the alert was a “warm welcome” but more needed to be done. 

“To stop contributing to grave rights abuse & apartheid, they should stop brokering rentals in unlawful settlements,” Omar Shakir said. 

The Israeli foreign ministry welcomed the softening of the warning on Saturday, which it said came after “discreet and effective dialogue” with the online travel agency, according to the Ynet news website. 

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid also hailed the effort, which he said was part of a policy “to maintain a constant political effort against false anti-Israel propaganda”.

Booking.com announced it would introduce a new warning two weeks ago. It said it applied to all listings in conflict zones worldwide and aimed to “make it easier for every person to experience the world”.

“In accordance with this goal, we are attempting to ensure that our clients have the information needed in order to make decisions about destinations they wish to visit,” Booking.com told Israeli newspaper Haaretz.

“Certain areas in the world affected by conflict may pose a greater risk to travelers, so we provide our customers with information to help make decisions and encourage them to check their government’s official travel guidelines as part of the decision-making process.” 

Israel occupied the West Bank and Jerusalem’s eastern neighbourhoods, including the Old City, in the 1967 Middle East war. Since then, it has settled hundreds of thousands of its citizens in the territories in contravention of international law.

Booking.com rival Airbnb previously planned to delist properties in Israeli settlements, but in 2019 backtracked on the decision and said it would take no profits in the territory, instead donating proceeds to international humanitarian aid organizations. 

According to Israeli NGO Peace Now, more than 450,000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank alongside 2.8 million Palestinians. Another 230,000 Jewish settlers live in East Jerusalem.