Booking.com plans warning for listings in occupied Palestinian West Bank
Booking.com said it would caution customers booking accommodations in Israeli settlements that they were travelling to a "disputed, conflict-affected or high-risk" area that "may pose greater risks".
The vast majority of the world considers the West Bank illegally occupied Palestinian land and that Israeli settlements break international law.
The company told The Associated Press that it was still working on the language of the safety warning for the Israeli-occupied West Bank and a few other regions around the world. It did not say when the alert would take effect.
It comes as violence rises in the West Bank, stemming from deadly raids by Israeli forces in occupied cities and villages leaving at least 85 Palestinians dead so far this year. On Monday, the Israeli army said a vehicle came under fire as it passed by a Palestinian village in the occupied northern West Bank. No injuries were reported.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry declined to comment.
Israel occupied the West Bank following the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and later annexed it, in violation of international law. Some 700,000 Israeli settlers live in the occupied West Bank, considered illegal under international law.
Online travel companies like Airbnb and Booking.com have long been urged by Palestinian officials, activists and human rights groups to end their listings there.
Businesses have faced a huge backlash among Israel's supporters in the US following the boycott moves, to conform with international law. Airbnb scrapped its plan to bar listings in the settlements in 2019 after lawsuits were filed against it in the United States and Israel.
Similar controversy has engulfed ice cream maker Ben & Jerry’s. The Vermont company set off an outcry in Israel by saying that it would stop selling its products in the occupied West Bank last year.
But a recent deal will see Ben & Jerry’s ice cream back on shelves in the Occupied Palestinian Territories after parent company Unilever sold the brand’s Israeli business to a local licensee.
Booking.com's announcement did not directly question the legitimacy or legality of the settlements, and instead focused on safety. To some Israelis, the disclaimer showed Israel’s pressure has paid off.
.@bookingcom has begun adding safety & #humanrights warnings to all reservations in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied #WestBank. We welcome this new policy and urge more corporations to call out Israel's illegal occupation & #apartheid.https://t.co/7DAOpSB6XI— CAIR National (@CAIRNational) September 19, 2022
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), the largest Muslim civil rights group in the US, welcomed the travel warning as a decision to "recognize the reality of the occupation and human rights abuses", calling on more foreign corporations to do the same.
Booking.com said its safety banner for the West Bank would resemble those currently shown for accommodations in Ukraine or Cyprus. The site’s warning for Ukraine cautions travellers of "an increased risk to customers’ safety in this location” and urges them to “review travel guidelines for this area provided by your government".
The company declined to say whether the warning would also apply to Palestinian properties in the West Bank, such as in the cities of Hebron or Ramallah.