Regarding the ever-expanding Jewish settler population in the Israeli occupied territories, a human rights group has accused online booking giants of "driving settlement expansion," and "profiting from war crimes" by doing business with Israelis in the West Bank and east Jerusalem.
The London-based rights group said in a report published on Wednesday, titled "Destination: Occupation," that rental sites Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia and TripAdvisor are driving tourism to settlements that most of the world considers illegal.
"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," said the report. "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."
Airbnb announced last November that it would remove West Bank settlement listings but has yet to implement its decision. The move was decried by Israel and praised by advocates of Palestinian rights when it was announced. The Simon Wiesenthal Centre placed Airbnb on its end-of-year list of the "top 10 worst global anti-Semitic incidents," in light of its decision. A group of American citizens also filed a discrimination lawsuit against the company. The company later said it is working to identify the "precise boundaries" of areas subject to the policy. Amnesty called on Airbnb to immediately implement its ban and to extend it to east Jerusalem.
Saeb Erekat, meanwhile, a top official of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), called upon the United Nations to "release the list of companies involved in the Israeli occupation." "We reiterate our call upon the international community to respect its obligations under international law, beginning by releasing tourism guidelines to ensure that their citizens and companies do not contribute to the Israeli colonial-settlement enterprise," he said in a statement.
Last November, a global human rights group has called on tourism companies to stop listing properties in unlawful Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. A 65-page report carried out into tourist rental listings in settlements by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and an Israeli nongovernmental organization, Kerem Navot, revealed discriminatory practices and serious rights abuses towards Palestinians stemming from the settlements and urged other global companies to comply with the U.N. Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
The international community regards all Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories to be illegal and a major obstacle to Middle East peace. Israel occupied the West Bank in the 1967 Six-Day War and hundreds of thousands of Jewish-Israelis are now living in the territory, which is claimed by Palestinians for their future state.