In a new policy that took effect on Friday, the accommodation-reservation company Booking.com labeled all housing options in Judea-Samaria and the Gaza Strip as “maybe conflict-affected.”
“Please review any travel advisories provided by your government to make an informed decision about your stay in this area, which may be considered conflict-affected,” Booking.com warned travelers looking for a place to stay in the so-called West Bank.
The disputed territories include Judea and Samaria, the heartland of historical Israel, and the largely isolated Gaza Strip, administered by Hamas under the Palestinian Authority. And they are far from the only areas in the world that Booking.com labels in this manner.
The hotel and lodgings-listing site labels approximately 39 other areas around the world as “conflict-affected,” including the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh in the South Caucasus – claimed by both Armenia and Azerbaijan – and Georgia’s South Ossetia, which Russia occupied in 2008.
Parts of the P.A.-controlled sections of Judea-Samaria are fairly dangerous for vacationing at present, in light of an increased rate of terrorist attacks, or attempts at such. The Israel Defense Forces have been conducting ongoing operations to root out these threats.
On the other hand, many Jewish cities in the region, such as Ma’ale Adumim, are considered perfectly safe and daily life goes on undisrupted.
According to Israel’s Foreign Ministry, Booking.com originally planned to add the additional, unique label of “occupied territory” to hotels and other accommodations located in Jewish settlements. Leading Israeli politicians thanked the booking engine for ultimately choosing not to.
“Our policy is not to abandon any arena and to make a constant diplomatic effort against anti-Israel false propaganda,” Prime Minister Yair Lapid said. “We thank Booking for the change of decision. Israel reached an important achievement in its fight against delegitimization.”
Both Lapid and Israeli Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov claimed it a victory for Israel that Booking.com had not singled out Jewish settlements, or towns, but had only labeled the entire disputed area of Judea and Samaria “conflict-affected.”
Other Israeli politicians did not agree. MK Simcha Rothman from the Religious Zionism party said that Lapid was “thoroughly destroying all of Israel’s diplomatic achievements.”
“The prime minister is returning us to the dangerous path of establishing a Palestinian terror state and isolating Israel with BDS methods of labeling Judea and Samaria ‘settlers’,” Rothman said. “It's no wonder that all that is left for him is to be proud of a fake achievement over Booking.com.”
Human Rights Watch, which has appealed to tourism websites to boycott Jewish settlements, said that labeling the towns as “conflict-affected” does not go far enough to communicate the perspective that these Jewish towns are “illegal” and the land has been “stolen” from people “living under apartheid.”
“Booking.com’s decision … is a welcome step towards informing consumers that they are renting homes in occupied territories,” HRW director and pro-Palestinian activist Omar Shakir said.
According to Canary Mission, Israel deported Shakir in November 2019 for promoting anti-Israel boycotts in his official capacity as the Israel and Palestine Country Director for Human Rights Watch.
“Shakir has defended terrorists, whitewashed violent protests and demonized Israel,” the Canary Mission website states.
Shakir’s incendiary anti-Israel comments vis-à-vis Booking, that it “should stop brokering rentals in illegal settlements in places like the occupied West Bank, built on land stolen from people living under apartheid,” should be understood through this lens.
Booking.com is not the first housing company to label hotels and other accommodations in Judea and Samaria. In November 2018, Airbnb said it would completely remove listings of Israeli settlements “at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians,” causing an uproar in Israel that the company was supporting the BDS movement, while gaining praise from the P.A.
In April 2019, following the lawsuit settlements of property owners in Judea-Samaria filed against Airbnb, the company reversed its policy. It now states that it would list properties in the West Bank, but not allow itself to profit from them; instead, it would donate profits from the region to humanitarian aid in different parts of the world.
The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.