The BDS movement thought it had a sure victory. The major on-line travel agency Booking.com had, in response to BDS pressure, originally announced a few weeks ago that from now on, it would attach a “warning” notice to all properties it listed in Israel’s West Bank settlements. Those searching for properties to rent in those settlements were advised to check with their government for travel advisories before making reservations in the area. A report on this decision, that was soon modified, is here: “Booking.com introduces travel warnings for Israeli, Palestinian West Bank properties,” Times of Israel, October 1, 2022:
Online travel agency Booking.com added warnings on Friday to listings in West Bank locations. The new alert, a small text advisory at the top of search results, urges customers searching for rentals to review their government’s travel advisories before booking in the area, “which may be considered conflict-affected.”
It applies to both Israeli settlements and Palestinian locales.…
This is the victory, incomplete but most welcome nonetheless, over the BDS and its forces of darkness. After enormous protests from Israeli and Jewish groups, Booking.com decided that if it was going to warn potential renters about possible “conflict” in Jewish towns and villages in the West Bank, it should do the same for Palestinian-ruled parts of the West Bank. This has enraged BDS supporters, who argue, preposterously, that Palestinian-areas are not “conflict-affected,” when all one has to do is look at the terror groups Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the PFLP, and what they have unleashed throughout the West Bank, including not just their attacks on Jewish civilians, but also their intra-Palestinian violence, with Hamas and PIJ attacks on members of Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah in Jenin and Nablus.
How likely is it that travelers will want to rent a property in Palestinian villages or cities where armed men patrol their turf, or exchange fire with each other as Hamas, PIJ, and Fatah all jostle violently for power, or where Palestinian gunmen fire on Israeli civilians driving by, or fire at IDF soldiers (who return the fire) who have been making lightning raids to arrest those implicated in terror attacks both on West Bank settlements and on Israel proper? Jewish settlements are most peaceful by comparison with any Palestinian area, and no doubt this was brought to the attention of Booking.com by the Israeli government. The company was not going to admit it had made a mistake in posting a warning about Jewish settlements being in “conflict-affected” areas, but instead, it decided to extend the same warning to the Palestinian areas of the West Bank.
And that is how things now stand: The army of BDSers who applied pressure to Booking.com to attach warning banners on its listings of BnBs in Israel’s settlements may have briefly caused a problem, but the Jewish visitors and Christian evangelicals who are most likely to rent rooms in such places are unlikely to be dissuaded in the slightest by that single sentence of warning now posted with the listings of settlement BnBs at the Booking.com.website.
We will eventually get the data on BnB rentals in Palestinian villages and cities; Booking.com is likely to have to provide new warnings for those listings, because of their steadily increasing level of violence, including internecine warfare. These stark warnings should lead to a decrease in bookings by tourists.
Booking.com has decided to extend its warning banner to other areas of the world, in an obvious attempt to “dilute” its initial singling out of BnBs in West Bank settlements.
The BDSers who first persuaded Booking.com to add a warning banner to BnBs in Jewish settlements must be furious. The language they so desired, about the “occupied” West Bank, has been removed in response to Israeli complaints, as has the phrase originally contemplated for inclusion about “human rights risks.” And worst of all, the same warning that was to be applied to Jewish settlements will now be applied, as well, to BnBs in Palestinian areas, and likely will have a greater effect.
The travel agency announced that it would take this step [of posting a warning for BnBs in Jewish settlements] earlier this month, sparking backlash from the Israeli government, which threatened a “diplomatic war” in response.
Foreign tourism companies like Airbnb, Booking.com and TripAdvisor long have sparked controversy for allowing West Bank settlers to post places for rent, with no mention that these settlements are considered a violation of international law. Many rental sites, from suburban-type settlements near Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem to far-flung outposts deep in the occupied territories, list their location only as Israel.
It is not true that the Jewish settlements “are considered [by everyone] a violation of international law.” Many cogent arguments have been presented to refute this view. See, for example, the magisterial study of Julius Stone, one of the most respected scholars of international law: his “Israel and Palestine: Assault on the Law of Nations.” Only this is true: “whether Jewish settlements are a violation of international law is a matter of great and continuing dispute.”
Some half-million Jewish settlers live in the West Bank, which Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War. The Palestinians seek these lands as parts of a future independent state.
The Palestinians “seek these lands” to establish an independent state, but that is not the end of the matter. They seek an independent state that will serve as a base from which to attack Israel, and eventually to lay claim to a “State of Palestine” that will extend “from the river to the sea.” Hamas and PIJ make this goal – the Fast Jihad of destruction of the Jewish state – explicit; the Palestinian Authority presents itself as “moderate” because it is engaged in the Slow Jihad of diplomacy, the diminution of Israel by degrees, as it is first squeezed back into the 1949 armistice lines, with a nine-mile wide waist at Qalqilya, and then squeezed again, until the final violent assault on it. The result the P.A. seeks is the same one that Hamas and PIJ have in view.
Human Rights Watch described the travel warning on Friday as a “welcome step” to help prevent customers from unwittingly landing in illegal settlements. But the group urged tourism companies to go further by removing their listings in West Bank settlements.”
Human Rights Watch is perhaps the most anti-Israel of all the major NGOs; it is not surprising it should wish to destroy Israel’s tourism industry in the West Bank. And its next step will be to try to convince online booking companies to remove BnB listings not just for the West Bank settlements, but for anywhere in Israel, giving as justification that it is an “apartheid state” and must be brought to heel by undermining its economy in any way possible.
“Notification in and of itself doesn’t end Booking’s contribution to serious rights abuses,” said Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine Director for Human Rights Watch. “The company should stop brokering rentals in illegal settlements in places like the occupied West Bank.”
But stopping risks Israeli uproar. Israel and its supporters have accused those who support boycotts of Israel or its settlements of antisemitism. Airbnb scrapped its plan to remove listings in the settlements in 2019 after lawsuits were filed against it in the United States and Israel.
Israel is not going to accept without a fight these attempts by BDS supporters to damage its BnB tourism industry. It managed to get Airbnb to retract its plan to remove listings in the settlements three years ago, and none of the on-line travel agencies has tried to delist Israeli BnBs since. The BDSers have now been put on notice: whatever harm those warning banners at Booking.com do to Israeli BnBs will now also be done to the Palestinian BnBs. There will be economic damage on both sides, but likely far more on the Palestinian side, given the amount of violence in the P.A. territories that far exceeds that in the settlements.