By Aryeh Savir/TPS
JERUSALEM—Israel has rejected Amnesty’s International call to boycott Israeli touristic sites in Judea and Samaria (the West Bank) while vowing to fight the “despicable anti-Semitic decision.”
Amnesty on Tuesday published a report claiming that Israel’s tourism industry in Judea and Samaria profits from the “occupation,” human rights violations and war crimes, and called on international tourism companies to boycott the industry and not to facilitate it in any manner. The British-based organization singled out digital tourism giants Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia and TripAdvisor, saying they were profiting from “war crimes” by offering services there.
The report alleged that the Israeli government’s development of archaeological sites “in settlements,” such as the one in Susya in the Hebron area or the one at Shiloh in Samaria, “is pivotal to its plans to develop and expand the settlements.”
The ancient town of Susya dates back to the second Temple period and earlier, while Shiloh was the place where the biblical Tabernacle stood for hundreds of years after the Israelites entered the land of Israel.
“The archaeological site in Susya like many other tourist attractions in or near settlements is driving human rights violations against neighbouring Palestinians. By promoting sites like these, online booking companies are complicit in the Israeli government’s illegal endeavour to expand the settlements at all costs,” the report alleged.
“Promoting these sites to a global audience facilitates the Israeli government’s settlement goals, which is where international tourism companies become essential,” said Seema Joshi, Amnesty International’s Director of Global Thematic Issues.
In response, IsraelI Minister of Tourism Yariv Levin said : “No force in the world will change the simple historical truth – the Land of Israel belongs to the People of Israel.’’
“We will fight this despicable anti-Semitic decision, and we will not allow anyone to boycott Israel or parts of it,” he added while noting that” tourism to Israel and to Judea and Samaria is at an all-time height, and this is the best answer to shameful decisions of this kind. ”
Israeli Strategic Affairs and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan tweeted that “Amnesty has become a leader in the anti-Semitic BDS campaign, and tonight’s report on Israel is an outrageous attempt to distort the facts, deny Jewish heritage and delegitimize Israel.”
NGO Monitor, a watchdog, stated that Amnesty’s campaign “solely targets these companies working in Israel and ignores their activity in every other conflict area/disputed territory throughout the world. China? fine. Syria? No problem. Israel? #NoJewsAllowed.”
“Amnesty seeks to erase Jewish historical and cultural sites. This is pure hatred and bigotry reminiscent of some of the darkest periods of the past,” NGO Monitor charged.
Amnesty’s pressure has borne fruit after Airbnb announced in November 2018 its decision to delist some 200 Israeli homes located in Judea and Samaria because they are located in an area which Airbnb claims is “at the core of the dispute between the Israelis and Palestinians.”
Israel has launched a process through which it intends to take action against the tourism company. An Israeli inter-ministerial governmental team, including the ministries of Tourism, Foreign Affairs, Justice and Economy, as well as the Tax Authority, is currently working on venues of action.
Florida and other US states are reviewing whether Airbnb breached their state laws prohibiting them from doing business with entities that boycott Israel.
Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis announced Tuesday that the Florida Cabinet has accepted the State Board of Administration’s recommendation to place Airbnb on the Scrutinized Companies List.