Minister threatens to ban Amnesty over settlement tourism report
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Minister threatens to ban Amnesty over settlement tourism report

Gilad Erdan asks Strategic Affairs Ministry to look into barring rights group that called on Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia, TripAdvisor to stop listing accommodations in settlements

Gilad Erdan speaks during a press conference in Tel Aviv in 2018. (Roy Alima/Flash90)
Gilad Erdan speaks during a press conference in Tel Aviv in 2018. (Roy Alima/Flash90)

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan threatened to ban Amnesty International from Israel on Wednesday after the rights group accused Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia and TripAdvisor of profiting from “war crimes” by offering accommodation in settlements.

“Amnesty International, that hypocritical organization that speaks in the name of human rights, is acting to promote a boycott of Israelis as part of a campaign of anti-Semitic delegitimization,” Erdan said.

Erdan, whose Strategic Affairs Ministry is responsible for combating the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, called for a boycott of Airbnb last year after it said it would stop listing homes in West Bank settlements. The company faced legal action by settlement home owners in court in the US and apparently never implemented its declared move.

“I have instructed the Ministry of Strategic Affairs to examine the possibility of preventing the entry of members of Amnesty to Israel,” Erdan said, adding that he had recently gone to the Finance Ministry to ask it to cancel the tax benefits granted to the organization, but provided no further details.

Amnesty issued a report on Wednesday calling on Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia and TripAdvisor to stop listing tourist accommodation, activities and attractions in settlements in the West Bank.

In this photo from January 17, 2016, Moshe Gordon sits outside his guest house advertised on the Airbnb international home-sharing site in the Nofei Prat settlement in the West Bank. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov, File)

“They are doing so despite knowing that Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, is governed by international humanitarian law under which Israeli settlements are deemed illegal,” it said.

“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.”

The London-based human rights group accused the digital tourism giants of “normalizing” West Bank settlements and Israeli neighborhoods in East Jerusalem.

Rights group Amnesty stage a demonstration outside the UK headquarters of US travel company TripAdvisor in London on Wednesday. (Tolga Akmen/AFP)

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 East Jerusalem.

Erdan has in the past led efforts to ban BDS supporters from Israel, drawing criticism from rights groups.

His attempt to bar US student Lara Alqasem from entering Israel because she had once voiced support for BDS at her university in Florida was rejected by the Supreme Court in October.

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