Amnesty calls to boycott Judea and Samaria, pressures tour companies to join Airbnb

Amnesty International wants other digital booking companies to join Airbnb in boycotting Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria. 

By David Isaac, World Israel News

Amnesty International released a new report, “Destination: Occupation,” calling for digital tourism companies to stop doing business in Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria.

The 96-page report singles out four companies: Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia and TripAdvisor. These firms, which “dominate the multibillion-dollar global online tourism industry… list hotels, B&Bs, attractions and tours” in Jewish towns in Judea and Samaria, or what the report refers to as, “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian 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,” the report claims.

The document, which strikes a politically aggressive tone, says that “all four companies claim to operate under high ethical values and respect for the rule of law.” However, “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’s report comes in the wake of a November 19 report from Human Rights Watch titled “Bed and Breakfast On Stolen Land.” That 65-page report focuses specifically on Airbnb and Booking.com rental activity in Judea and Samaria.

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Airbnb decided in a November decision to remove from its apartment rental site 200 Jewish-owned listings in those areas. Airbnb executives said, “We know that people will disagree with this decision and appreciate their perspective.”

But the company perhaps did not realize how much opposition it would encounter. Airbnb’s decision has led to multiple lawsuits over discrimination, calls for a boycott against the company by U.S. cities, criticism from Vice President Mike Pence, and may have played a part in reinvigorating a push in the U.S. Congress for anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions) legislation.

Amnesty, which has come under fire in the past by those who say it has shown a consistently anti-Israel bias, immediately faced criticism for its report.

Israeli Minister of Public Security and Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan tweeted that the report is “an outrageous attempt to distort facts, deny Jewish heritage & delegitimize Israel,” saying he will “examine the possibility of preventing the entry & stay of Amnesty in Israel.”

Gerald Steinberg, founder and president of NGO Monitor said, “Precisely because tourism to Israel is at an all-time high, Amnesty International is targeting this sector.”

Israeli tourism numbers have broken records, which Amnesty admits in its report. According to a December 2018 report, the city of Jerusalem leads global tourism growth with 38 percent more arrivals in 2018, after a 32 percent jump in 2017.

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The Amnesty report may only be the first salvo in an ongoing assault on Israel’s control of Judea and Samaria.

NGO Monitor warned earlier this month that Amnesty is planning an ‘intense’ effort to target Israel. The watchdog group said Amnesty would challenge businesses that profit in Judea and Samaria, attempt to delegitimize Jewish historical connections to Jerusalem and elsewhere and promote boycotts against the Jewish State.