You are on page 1of 7

How Booking.

com is aiding Israel’s
war crimes

Mieke Zagt-
22 February 2017
A Booking.com for an Israeli hotel at the Dead Sea does not
mention that it is in the occupied West Bank.
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.
Take the Kalia Kibbutz Hotel. In 2015, Booking.com claimed that
this hotel was in Israel. Today, the website states that it is
“located within an Israeli settlement.”
It would not be clear to anyone unfamiliar with Middle East
geography or politics that the hotel is situated on occupied
Palestinian land.
Booking.com does not elaborate on what exactly “located within
an Israeli settlement” means. It does not specify that the
settlement has been built in violation of international law.
Unsuspecting tourists may simply think that the hotel is in an
attractive location, a short drive from the Dead Sea.
The photographs of manicured lawns and a spacious swimming
pool would not alert prospective visitors that by reserving a room
here, they would be entering the scene of a war crime.
Deceptive
A 2013 United Nations report defined settlements as
encompassing “all physical and non-physical structures and
processes” built or undertaken to install, expand or maintain
“Israeli residential communities” outside the “Green Line” – the
boundary between Israel and the occupied West Bank and Gaza
Strip.
Hotels located within Israeli colonies would appear to fall within
that definition, as they are contributing economically to tourism
activities in the settlements.
Other listings by Booking.com are arguably even more deceptive.
The website gives “Israel” as the address for accommodations in
occupied East Jerusalem. This is despite the UN Security
Council viewing Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem as a
violation of international law.
For example, Booking.com offers its clients the opportunity to
book chalets in Ramot, an Israeli settlement in East Jerusalem.
The website claims that the chalets are in Israel, without
acknowledging that they are located in an illegal settlement.
Booking.com identifies a hotel in Ramot settlement as located in
Israel when it is in the occupied West Bank.
Booking.com is headquartered in the Netherlands. It should,
therefore, abide by Dutch and European Union law.
In November 2015, the EU published guidelines for firms doing
business in the Middle East. They state that the Union “does not
recognize Israel’s sovereignty over the territories” it has occupied
since 1967 – the West Bank (including East Jerusalem), Gaza and
the Golan Heights – and “does not consider them to be part of
Israel’s territory.”
The guidelines add that information published by firms about the
origin of the products they sell “must be correct and not
misleading for the consumer.” Labeling a product from an Israeli
settlement in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as being
“from Israel” would be misleading, according to the guidelines.
While the guidelines focus on goods, rather than services, there is
nothing in them to indicate that hotels should be exempt from
their provisions.
Giving “Israel” as the address for East Jerusalem clearly runs
counter to what the guidelines stipulate.
Besides offering settlement hotels in the occupied West Bank,
Booking.com is continuing to claim that the Rimonim Hermon
Holiday Village is in Israel. In fact, the holiday resort is actually
situated in the Golan Heights, an Israeli-occupied part of Syria.
Inadequate
Booking.com has not gone far enough by only partially complying
with these guidelines.
All of Israel’s settlements in the West Bank, including East
Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights contravene the Fourth Geneva
Convention, which prohibits an occupying power from transferring
its civilian population into territories that it occupies.
As the construction and expansion of Israel’s settlements
involve war crimes, the EU should not simply be telling companies
to use appropriate terminology. Rather, it should be banning the
sale of goods and services to and from those illegal colonies. The
EU should do so, mindful of how the UN has, in effect, defined
businesses within those colonies as settlement activities.
Booking.com’s listing for Rimonim Holiday Village gives its
location in Israel when it is in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights.
Two years ago, Booking.com tried to evade its responsibilities. A
spokesperson for the firm told me it was “not up to us” to
determine if Israeli settlements were “illegal, disputed [or]
unrecognized.”
The corporation did not respond to more recent requests for
comment. Danwatch, a Copenhagen-based research center,
recently criticized the Priceline Group – the parent company of
Booking.com – for refusing to address the “possible negative
effects on human rights” from listing hotels in Israeli settlements.
Jeff Handmaker, a law lecturer at Erasmus University in The
Hague, insisted that “companies cannot be disconnected” from
their obligations under international law.
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.
The only acceptable course of action is for Booking.com to refuse
all listings from Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including
East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights.
Nobody should be invited – knowingly or not – to holiday in an
illegal destination.
Mieke Zagt is a co-founder and president of the Article 1
Collective, a human rights organization.
Posted by Thavam