Amazon delivering for free to settlements, but not to Palestinians – report

Rights groups claim discrimination, but online retailer tells Financial Times discrepancy is only due to ‘logistical issue’

A screenshot of Amazon launching free shipping on November 11, 2019, used by one of several Facebook groups. (Courtesy, Amazon)
A screenshot of Amazon launching free shipping on November 11, 2019, used by one of several Facebook groups. (Courtesy, Amazon)

Although Amazon offers free deliveries to Israeli settlements in the West Bank, it charges customers in neighboring Palestinian communities for its services — unless they select their address as being in Israel, according to a Financial Times report.

Amazon confirmed the claims, which rights activists slammed as discrimination, saying the policy was legitimizing the settlements and prodding Palestinians to list themselves as living in the Jewish state.

Free shipping to Israel for orders over $49 was part of Amazon’s launch promotion in the country last November.

Palestinians who select their address as being in the “Palestinian Territories” when placing orders can expect to pay $24 or more, the Friday FT report found.

However, Nick Caplin, an Amazon spokesman, told the paper that “if a customer within the Palestinian Territories enters their address and selects Israel as the country, they can receive free shipping through the same promotion.”

The Peace Now rights group said the difference between Amazon’s services to Israelis and Palestinians “adds to the overall picture of one group of people enjoying the privileges of citizenship while another people living in the same territory do not.”

Israeli international rights lawyer Michael Sfard told the FT that the Amazon policy is “blatant discrimination between potential customers on the basis of their nationality” within the same area.

A picture posted by an Israeli Amazon customer (Courtesy Amazon Israel – Best Deals)

Diana Buttu, a former legal adviser to the Palestinian negotiating team, told the FT that Amazon’s policy is “allowing the settlement activity to be viewed as legal when [it’s] not.”

“The issue is just how normalized the settlements have become, not just in Israeli eyes, but in international eyes,” she said.

After the article was published, Amazon told the paper that the delivery price differences were due to “a logistical issue and not a sign of any other consideration.”

According to the report, the Palestinian postal service is “largely dysfunctional” and some customers must drive to different towns to collect mail, which can be delayed for up to a month. In the settlements, Amazon is striving to maintain its to-door policy.

In Israel, Amazon’s promotion has yielded a class-action lawsuit against the Postal Company for 50.6 million NIS ($14.5 million), centered on claims it favors packages shipped by Amazon. Postal service workers have admitted that they received instructions to prioritize packages shipped by Amazon over other companies, due to Amazon’s purchasing power in Israel, the Kan public broadcaster reported.

In an emailed response to the Middle East Eye, Amazon spokesperson Caplin explained that when delivering to Palestinians, “we cannot guarantee the high standard of delivery experience that Amazon customers expect.”

The problem is that deliveries to the Palestinian Territories must go through additional customs and inspections by Israeli authorities before they are passed on to a local delivery operator for the Palestinians, he explained.

Granate Kim, communications director for Jewish Voice for Peace activism group, told MEE via email that “Amazon is essentially incentivizing Palestinians to choose ‘Israel’ as their address to get a free shipping deal.”

Amazon did not comment on whether it intends to change the promotion of free delivery to Israel, the Middle East Eye said.

Last week’s FT report came out as the United Nations released a blacklist of 112 companies that conduct business in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Online companies have in the past become involved in the dispute over Israel’s West Bank settlements.

Screenshot of in Hebrew, as launched on November 11, 2019.

Airbnb announced in November 2018 that it would remove some 200 rental listings in West Bank settlements because it contended that the settlements “are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.” However, in April the company reversed its policy after legal action from American Jews.

Israel seized control of the West Bank from Jordan during the Six Day War in 1967. Since then it has established settlements across the territory that the Palestinians want for a future state.

The international community overwhelmingly considers the settlements illegal. This is based in part on the Fourth Geneva Convention, which bars an occupying power from transferring parts of its own civilian population to occupied territory. Israel rejects the position that the territories are occupied, saying they were captured from Jordan in a defensive war and their status is disputed.

Although Israel maintains overall security control of the territories, most Palestinian residents live under the Palestinian Authority, which was established during the 1990s and is in charge of their postal service.

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