Booking.com warns against visiting Judea and Samaria, Netanyahu slams ‘abysmal hypocrisy’

“Ridiculous and inaccurate as this disclaimer is, it shows the failure of BDS campaigners to convince the company to drop its business in Israel,” says anti-BDS expert Eugene Kontorovich.

By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News

Global travel reservation site booking.com came under fire Monday after it slapped a travel warning on Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov wrote to the Dutch-based site’s CEO condemning the decision, which could be enacted as early as this week.

Saying it was “unacceptable” to label Israel as a violator of human rights and that the Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria “live in coexistence” with their Arab neighbors, Razvozov called the warning “a biased and scandalous decision that may create unnecessary tension and destabilize the region.” He then asked the company to retract its ruling.

Israel’s Channel 13 reported that the popular application was planning to put a warning on Jewish-run tourist accommodations in the disputed territory, saying that “a visit to the area may be accompanied by an increased risk to safety and human rights or other risks to the local community and guests.”

Lodgings in cities such as Ariel in the center of Samaria and Maale Adumim on the edge of Jerusalem will be included in the warning, the news report said.

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In defense of its decision, the company said in a statement, “Our mission at Booking.com is to make it easier for everyone to experience the world. In accordance with this mission, we try to ensure that our customers have information in order to make decisions about destinations they are considering traveling to.”

“Certain areas of the world affected by conflict may cause greater risk to travelers and therefore we provide our customers with information that helps them make decisions and encourage them to check their government’s official travel guidelines as part of the decision-making process,” the statement read.

Such warnings will also point to other “conflict zones” in the world, it added.

Opposition leader Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the site, saying that “Booking should be ashamed of its ignorance and hypocrisy. Judea and Samaria is the heart of our homeland, the heart of all of us.”

Announcement proves ‘failure of BDS’

Professor Eugene Kontorovich, an anti-BDS expert who is the director of the international law department at the Kohelet Policy Forum, a Jerusalem-based think tank, took a somewhat broader view of the issue.

“Ridiculous and inaccurate as this disclaimer is, it shows the failure of BDS campaigners to convince the company to drop its business in Israel – as they have been doing for over a decade,” he said. “It shows Booking.com has paid attention to the massive damage Airbnb and Ben & Jerry’s did to themselves when they adopted a boycott of Israeli-controlled territories. At the same time they want to throw a bone to anti-Israel activists.”

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In 2019, home-rental giant Airbnb announced and then retreated from its decision to ban the listing of Jewish-owned rentals homes in Judea and Samaria on its website. Lawsuits were filed in both Israel and the United States against the company on charges that it was discriminating against clients based on their religion.

When popular ice-cream manufacturer Ben and Jerry’s said in July 2021 that it would not renew the license of its Israeli franchisee because it sold their product in the so-called “Occupied Palestinian Territory,” anti-BDS legislation in several U.S. states kicked in.

Its parent company, Unilever, lost tens of millions of dollars in investments as a result and billions in stock value. Within months the global giant sold its Israeli operations to the local franchisee. In August, Ben and Jerry’s lost its case against Unilever when it attempted to block the sale.