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Booking.com tries to ride out the storm of Airbnb exiting illegal Israeli settlements

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Airbnb’s recent declaration that it will pull its listings from illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, made headlines worldwide last week. The decision came a day before the release of a Human Rights Report (HRW) titled “Bed and Breakfast on Stolen Land: Tourist Rental Listings in West Bank Settlements.”

Airbnb undoubtedly tried to prepare itself for the storm of condemnation which would have come from human rights advocates had it not anticipated the HRW report.

Yet another company which was in focus of that report, Booking.com, has not done the same, and it is apparently trying to ride out the storm, in hope that it goes away.

HRW congratulated Airbnb for its decision:

“The decision by Airbnb to stop listing properties in unlawful Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank is a positive step that other global tourism companies should follow”.

This was a most obvious immediate reference to Booking.com. But Booking.com did not want to shoulder responsibility at all. In a morally debased display of cowardice, Booking.com told HRW that it provided a platform to advertise the properties, which was not the same as supporting settlements.

Let’s just consider that logic. Say a thief was advertising their stolen goods on a platform you provided, and you knew it was criminal, but you let them continue. By normal legal standards anywhere, you would be knowingly complicit in crime. Booking.com is trying to have the cake and eat it – saying it doesn’t (necessarily) support settlements, but on the other hand providing business for them. This is an untenable position. And this is not really new for Booking.com.

Notice for example this coverage by Electronic Intifada from 2017, “How Booking.com is aiding Israel’s war crimes”. The practice goes back years. Mieke Zagt writes:

Two years ago, I wrote an article exposing how Booking.com was offering hotel rooms in settlements that Israel has built in violation of international law. I also highlighted how the travel website was misleading clients by giving “Israel” as the address for hotels in the occupied West Bank and Golan Heights.

A correction of sorts has been made since then. When I checked Booking.com earlier this month, I learned that it now gives “Israeli settlement” as the address for some of its accommodation listings.

The change was more than likely made in response to European Union guidelines.

Yet that does not alter the fact that Booking.com is still abetting Israel’s settlement activities – activities which constitute war crimes.

Jeff Handmaker, a law lecturer at Erasmus University in The Hague, is quoted, saying that “business activities cannot be disconnected from international law obligations.”

Handmaker argued that under the Dutch international crimes act, Booking.com could be sued for enabling violations of international law.

By continuing to offer services in illegal settlements, “Booking.com is – deliberately or not – actively facilitating the commission of war crimes,” he added.

 

Airbnb decision causes a storm amongst Israel supporters

So Booking.com is now coming into (long overdue) focus, and it clearly wants to hide in the bunker and claim to neither hear, see nor speak any evil.

Obviously, Booking.com is fearing the storm that has beset Airbnb in the wake of its declaration. Even though Airbnb declared only a selective withdrawal from some, but not all, illegal Israeli settlements, it has drawn ferocious response from the Israeli government, with ministers calling to punish the firm in all of Israel and internationally.

An Anti-Defamation League (ADL) letter to Airbnb accused the firm of giving in to anti-Semites. The ADL letter egregiously misrepresents the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS), which it considers the villain here (although BDS is not mentioned in the HRW report nor in Airbnb’s statement). BDS itself has noted Airbnb’s decision soberly as a “partial victory for human rights and accountability”, adding that “it is a first step in the right direction to end Airbnb’s profiting from Israel’s theft of indigenous Palestinians’ lands and natural resources.”

BDS noted how this was still very selective and in fact still contradictory, since Airbnb’s new position does not relate to all illegal Israeli settlements:

Airbnb, however, is contradicting its own statement by failing to delist properties in illegal Israeli settlements in occupied East Jerusalem, including the Old City. All Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian — and Syrian — territory constitute war crimes under international law. East Jerusalem is no exception.

But for Israel, and for ADL, it doesn’t really matter. This is all “anti-Semitic”. Ironically, Jonathan Greenblatt’s ADL letter asks for consistency:

You wrote that Airbnb will “remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.”

1. Which listings does this cover?

2. Does it include listings in the Golan Heights?

3. Does it include listings in Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, that are in its Old City or over the Green Line?

The irony of demanding such consistency is probably completely lost on Greenblatt. He is suggesting that nothing should be boycotted here and is sounding like a true agent of the Israeli government.

Liberal Zionists such as Peter Beinart, who support a boycott of settlements, are not accepting this line. Beinart tweeted:

“Here’s a thought. Take the ADL’s staff to the West Bank. See what it’s like for people to live for a half-century as stateless non-citizens, without free movement, due process or the right to vote under military law. Then start living up to your mission to fight for human rights”.

When Beinart was challenged by a commenter who said that “ADL is there to advocate for Jews”, Beinart responded by saying “read its mission statement.” ADL’s mission statement says:

“To stop the defamation of the Jewish people, and to secure justice and fair treatment to all…”

So Greenblatt is clearly very selective himself on which part of the mission he takes up. And his anti-Semitism accusations are nothing but hysterical. David Rosenberg was addressing this in his Haaretz opinion the other day:

Let’s start with the anti-Semitism accusations, which are absurd but trotted out so often in the context of BDS that you would think that it is really an issue […]

In adhering to BDS’ call, Airbnb made a political/business decision, which is that (if you look at its waffly official statement) it won’t offer listings that have a “direct connection” to a political dispute or contribute “to existing human suffering.”

Airbnb didn’t say it wouldn’t do business with Jews. In fact, it does a lively business in Israel and as of this writing, even in East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights (which Israel has formally annexed).

The distinction Airbnb is making is between occupier and occupied, not between Jew and gentile.

 

Booking.com is squarely on the settler’s side

But Booking.com doesn’t want to move in any direction. It wants to stay put in the settlements and have all this go away.

Just as the settlers are saying “we’re not going anywhere”, this issue is not going anywhere either, even if Booking.com wants it to disappear. Booking.com is now inevitably embroiled in a fierce debate about war crimes and accountability, and the firm is looking worse by the minute – because of Airbnb’s decision; because of the hysterical response to Airbnb from Israel and its apologists; because prominent Israel supporters also oppose Israel’s war against Airbnb.

It is not really helping that Public Security (and Hasbara) minister Gilad Erdan, is promoting Booking.com as an alternative to Airbnb; it is only further branding Booking.com as the new darling of the settlers. Booking.com, in its coyness and silence, is thus inevitably placing itself on the side of the ultranationalist criminality and immorality that all this is ultimately about.

It is taking the side of the illegal settlers, it is choosing to profit from war crime rather than apply social responsibility and legal integrity. Booking.com is making itself the next major target for customer boycott. That storm is surely coming.

About Jonathan Ofir

Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.

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14 Responses

  1. marc b.
    marc b.
    November 25, 2018, 1:15 pm

    Can someone tell me who the BDS is? I see reference to the BNC, but no board of directors or other executives.

    • DaBakr
      DaBakr
      November 25, 2018, 1:28 pm

      @m

      Google:. Barghouti, BDS

      p.s. They like to maintain a grassroots image but the organization is well funded, and spread throughout the left leaning institutions of western europe and the US.

      • bcg
        bcg
        November 25, 2018, 7:52 pm

        @DaBakr: Left leaning institutions like Jewish Voice For Peace.

        We join with communities of conscience around the world in supporting Palestinians, who call for BDS until the Israeli government:

        Ends its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantles the Wall; recognizes the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and respects, protects and promotes the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

        https://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/boycott-divestment-and-sanctions/jvp-supports-the-bds-movement/

      • DaBakr
        DaBakr
        November 25, 2018, 10:50 pm

        @b

        Exactly. Among others

      • annie
        annie
        November 26, 2018, 12:03 am

        i’ve donated. dabakr, you say well funded as if you’ve got some access to information. can you share it please. unless that is just a hunch of yours.

        btw, an endorsement is not evidence of financial support. i recall someone made the same claim, that jvp funded mondoweiss, which turned out to be unfounded. they have a fundraising drive like lots of ngos. its likely most of their money comes from grassroots supporters.

        the chance they have anywhere near the money that’s spent to defeat them, adelson’s millions and the israeli gov, and TIP and the list goes on and on, is nil.

        show us what you’ve got dabakr.

      • Misterioso
        Misterioso
        November 26, 2018, 11:42 am

        @DaBakr

        Sigh.

        Meanwhile, recently received from my Canadian friend;

        https://ijvcanada.org/2018/cfs_bds/?fbclid=IwAR1THWE6BAxI7xYVrGFhLl-ETLCTbJMFF7y_1BTmI90nFineHVKfz8dN9HU

        “Jewish Students Applaud Canadian Federation of Students’ BDS Resolution” – Independent Jewish Voices Canada, Nov. 19/18

        November 19, 2018
        GATINEAU — “Independent Jewish Voices Canada (IJV), including its eight student chapters, applauds the Canadian Federation of Students for adopting a resolution in favour of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Movement at their annual General Assembly today. The resolution follows an endorsement of the BDS campaign by the Federation’s Ontario component in 2014.

        “’This is a crystal clear sign that the BDS movement is gaining momentum both in Canada and around the world, especially amongst students,’ said Corey Balsam, IJV National Coordinator. ‘The Canadian Federation of Students supported the boycott of apartheid South Africa in the 80s and has once again opted to stand on the right side of history.’

        “IJV voted to endorse the BDS movement in 2009 as a means of exerting pressure on the Israeli government to respect the human rights of Palestinians. Specifically, the movement calls on Israel to end its occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, give equal rights to Palestinian citizens of Israel and accept the right of Palestinian refugees to return.

        “The Canadian Federation of Students’ resolution follows widespread condemnation of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for conflating BDS activity on university campuses with antisemitism, during his apology speech for turning away Jewish refugees in 1939.

        “’The idea that BDS creates an unsafe environment for Jewish students is simply unfounded. In making this claim, Trudeau unfairly places the blame for antisemitism on Palestinians and those standing in solidarity with their cause,’ said Rudi Barwin, spokesperson for the IJV student chapter at Carleton University. ‘As a Jewish student and member of IJV, I congratulate the CFS for rejecting the Canadian government’s scapegoating of Palestine solidarity activists and for taking action toward a just-peace in Israel-Palestine. Resolutions like this can change the world for the better.’”
        ______________________

        “Full text of Canadian Federation of Students resolution in support of BDS” – November 19, 2018

        “Be it resolved that the ongoing occupation of Palestine be condemned by the Canadian Federation of Students; and

        “Be it further resolved that the Canadian Federation of Students endorse the boycotts, divestments, and sanctions campaign; and

        “Be it further resolved that the Canadian Federation of Students support Palestine-Solidarity organizing nationally by providing in-kind support and financial donations to different Palestine-Solidarity organizations on a case-by-case basis with a limit of $500 per organization; and

        “Be it further resolved that organizations that receive donations be encouraged to report back within six months of their activities to the Federation; and

        “Be it further resolved that the Canadian Federation of Students support locals in launching weapons divestment campaigns targeted towards their individual administrations; and

        “Be it further resolved that the CFS explore existing Boycott, Divestments, Sanctions (BDS) campaigns and organizing resources in order to better support locals with individual organizing, and recommend one for adoption at the next general meeting; and

        “Be it further resolved that a statement be released to our membership condemning the recent atrocities against Palestinians in Gaza, and reaffirming the Federation’s commitment to BDS and anti-war organizing.”

        Also, received from my Canadian friend:

        https://www.thechronicleherald.ca/opinion/commentary-why-boycotting-israel-is-not-an-act-of-anti-semitism-261839/

        “COMMENTARY: Why boycotting Israel is not an act of anti-Semitism” By Brian O’Neil, The Chronicle Herald, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, Nov. 22/18

        “On Nov. 27, Halifax-based Canadians, Arabs and Jews for a Just Peace (CAJJP) will be holding a panel discussion on the topic: Why Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel are not anti-Semitic.

        “On the face of it, calling for a boycott against a country, or a product, is not a major, contentious issue: it’s a reflection of people’s expression of free will regarding an ethical issue.

        “In the 1980s, a major international boycott was successfully launched against apartheid in South Africa. A couple of years ago, following the decision by Heinz to abandon its ketchup-making facility in Leamington, Ont., some Canadians initiated a boycott of Heinz ketchup. Today, while it’s not formally organized, I know (and I’m sure you do as well) many people who are boycotting travel to and products from the U.S. because of the policies and practices of the Trump administration.

        “Returning to the topic of the Nov. 27 panel discussion, some might cringe slightly when reading it. That could be because matters of intellect and emotion collide when addressing Palestinian rights issues against the horrific historical backdrop of anti-Semitism.

        “The BDS campaign was launched in 2005 by 170 Palestinian civil society groups representing virtually every sector of Palestinian society. The decision was rooted firmly in a commitment to non-violence and in international law regarding the illegal occupation of Palestinian territory.

        “The BDS call was made on the one-year anniversary of a historic advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The court ruled that Israel’s separation barrier was illegal, that Israel had to dismantle it ‘forthwith’ and offer reparations to those it had harmed, and that every signatory to the fourth Geneva Convention – meaning nearly every state in the world – was under an obligation to ensure Israel complied with international humanitarian law.

        “But Israel ignored the ruling, and neither the PLO nor the international community made a real attempt to enforce the court’s findings. In Canada’s case, successive governments have recognized the violations of Palestinians’ rights, but have done nothing. According to Ingrid Jaradat, a founding member of the BDS campaign, ‘If there had been action on the part of the international community to implement the ICJ ruling, there wouldn’t have been a BDS call.’

        “Because the BDS movement gradually developed momentum internationally, the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu decided by September 2014 to launch a frontal attack on it. Speaking to American Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, he said: ‘I think it’s important that the boycotters must be exposed for what they are; they’re classical anti-Semites in modern garb.’

        “This conflating of support for BDS with anti-Semitism was then actively engaged by the Israeli government’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs. Not only has it taken a lead role in lobbying foreign governments, but it has also outsourced much of its anti-BDS activity internationally, helping to establish and finance front groups and partner organizations.

        “In February 2016, the Conservative party opposition in the House of Commons introduced a motion that ‘the House reject the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which promotes the demonization and delegitimization of the State of Israel, and call upon the government to condemn any and all attempts by Canadian organizations, groups or individuals to promote the BDS movement, both here at home and abroad.’

        “During what passed for debate, criticisms of BDS supporters were shrill, with former Conservative MP and now leader of the United Conservative Party of Alberta, Jason Kenney, appearing to speak from Benjamin Netanyahu’s script: ‘The BDS movement,’ he proclaimed, ‘represents a new wave of anti-Semitism, the most pernicious form of hatred in the history of humanity.’

        “The motion passed, supported by all Conservative members and most Liberals.

        “A year later, in February 2017, an EKOS public opinion poll on Palestine and Israel issues revealed that Canadians feel that both the federal government and the media are biased in favour of Israel. Specifically, 78 per cent also believe that the call for a boycott of Israel is reasonable.

        “So it is in the context of majority Canadian approval – and general political and media condemnation – of BDS that the panel discussion is being held on Nov. 27. It starts at 7 p.m. in Room 255 in the Sobey Building at Saint Mary’s University in Halifax.”
        Brian O’Neill is a member of CAJJP. He lives in Boutiliers Point.

  2. hophmi
    hophmi
    November 25, 2018, 10:45 pm

    “Let’s just consider that logic. ”

    What, your stupid logic that advertising hotel rooms in a certain place is the same as endorsing its politics?

    I’ll be waiting for your call for AirBnB to take down all of its listing in Middle Eastern dictatorships, starting with state-sponsor-of-terrorism Iran.

    • Keith
      Keith
      November 26, 2018, 12:11 am

      HOPHMI- “…starting with state-sponsor-of-terrorism Iran.”

      Do you ever deviate, even momentarily, from imperial/Zionist propaganda? Do you have a conscience?

    • annie
      annie
      November 26, 2018, 12:18 am

      your stupid logic that advertising hotel rooms in a certain place is the same as endorsing its politics?

      i think the point was “knowingly complicit in crime” and “supporting” settlements, not endorsing them:

      Say a thief was advertising their stolen goods on a platform you provided, and you knew it was criminal, but you let them continue. By normal legal standards anywhere, you would be knowingly complicit in crime. Booking.com is trying to have the cake and eat it – saying it doesn’t (necessarily) support settlements, but on the other hand providing business for them. This is an untenable position. And this is not really new for Booking.com.

      Booking.com can say they do not support the settlements til they’re blue in the face.

    • CigarGod
      CigarGod
      November 26, 2018, 10:49 am

      Settlement Farm.
      Focus=Bad, Deflection=Good.
      Look over there at all those Scary Arabs.

    • Misterioso
      Misterioso
      November 26, 2018, 11:54 am

      @hophmi

      What nonsense!! To state the obvious, while it certainly has its faults, unlike the well documented racist/fascistic entity known as “Israel,” Iran is not illegally and brutally occupying other peoples’ lands.

  3. Kay24
    Kay24
    November 26, 2018, 5:29 am

    Meanwhile the evil continues. These people are vicious, and we keep enabling them.

    Israeli Squatters in West Bank uproot 1,000 Palestinian Olive Trees a Month (800,000 since 1967)

    For hundreds of Palestinian families, olive trees are the main source of income, however when harvest season approaches, Israeli settlers target Palestinian lands and cause severe economic damages.

    According to a report by Israeli NGO B’Tselem, Israeli settlers’ vandalism in the occupied West Bank is a daily routine and is fully backed by Israeli authorities.

    B’Tselem reported that “In just over two months, from the beginning of May to 7 July 2018, B’Tselem documented 10 instances in which settlers destroyed a total of more than 2,000 trees and grapevines and burned down a barley field and bales of hay.”

    They are people without a conscience.

  4. DamandaC
    DamandaC
    November 26, 2018, 9:54 am

    Excellent piece from Jonathan Ofir, as usual. Just one point he links to a David Rosenberg piece in Haaretz which actually links to a piece in Jeruslaem PoPost by Torah Lazaroff, Please join Twitter Jonathan, I miss half your pieces because I’m only on facebook as little as I can help it!

  5. genesto
    genesto
    November 26, 2018, 1:08 pm

    This reminds me of the controversy surrounding Caterpillar and its providing bulldozers that were/are specially equipped to demolish Palestinian homes. When Peter McGowan, chairman of the board of directors of Caterpillar at the time, was approached by JVP and asked why Caterpillar was actively participating in, and profiting from, the demolition of homes, he said that his company simply provided the equipment, but had no responsibility in how it was used. Right!!

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