Israel to ban Amnesty International for slamming tourism in settlements

Israel to ban Amnesty International for slamming tourism in settlements
3 min read
30 January, 2019
Israel has threatened to bar Amnesty International from access to the Jewish state over its charge that digital tourism companies are profiting from 'war crimes' by operating in settlements.
Erdan said he had started to act well before the release of Amnesty's report [AFP]
Israel has threatened to bar Amnesty International from access to the country over its charge on Wednesday that digital tourism companies are profiting from "war crimes" in the occupied West Bank.

The London-based rights group called on online giants Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia and TripAdvisor to stop listing tourist accommodation, activities and attractions in settlements in the occupied territories, including east Jerusalem.

"The hypocritical Amnesty International speaks in the name of human rights and in practice promotes boycotts against Israeli citizens as part of the anti-Semitic boycott and delegitimisation campaign," Israeli public security minister Gilad Erdan said in a Hebrew-language statement released Tuesday night.

"I instructed the ministry of strategic affairs to examine the possibility of preventing Amnesty personnel from entering, or residing in, Israel," said Erdan who is also strategic affairs minister, charged with opposing the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

He said he had started to act well before the official publication of Amnesty's "Destination: Occupation" study.

"A few weeks ago I asked the finance minister to end the tax benefits granted to the organisation," he said without giving details.

“Gilad Erdan’s threat to ban Amnesty International from entering Israel is a distraction from the real issues in our report: war crimes and other human rights violations committed against Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and the way online booking companies are contributing to the illegal expansion of Israeli settlements," Amnesty International said in a statement passed to The New Arab.

“Threatening to censor or restrict the activities of Amnesty International is a common response from governments when we document human rights violations they have committed. Attacking Amnesty is a way for the Israeli government to avoid public debate on the findings of our report. We will continue to call out governments who abuse human rights and will not be silenced by threats or unfounded accusations of bias.”

In its report, Amnesty said Israel's occupation of the West Bank and east Jerusalem was governed by international humanitarian law under which settlements were deemed illegal.

"In doing business with settlements, all four companies are contributing to, and profiting from, the maintenance, development and expansion of illegal settlements, which amount to war crimes under international criminal law."

In November, Airbnb announced it was removing from its rental listings settlement homes in the occupied West Bank.

But it never said when the decision would go into force.

Israel passed legislation in March 2017 banning entry to foreigners who support boycotting the country or its settlements.

In November of that year, Erdan's office denied entry to a US employee of Amnesty, with an interior ministry spokeswoman giving the grounds as "BDS", without elaborating.

About 450,000 Israelis live in West Bank settlements often in confrontation with the territory's 2.5 million Palestinians, in addition to 200,000 living in settlements in occupied east Jerusalem.

Israeli settlements are considered illegal under international law and major roadblocks to peace, as they are built on land Palestinians see as part of their future state.