Chapter 5: Human Rights Violations | Five Case Studies
The following five case studies capture the human rights reality for Palestinian communities living in or near Israel’s settlements, where tourism plays an increasingly important role in the economy.
Case Study One: Kfar Adumim – Khan al-Ahmar
“Experience the tranquillity of the desert and get a taste of w arm Israeli hospitality.” Airbnb listng
An important centre for tourism activities and accommodation in Area C of the West Bank is the Israeli settlement of Kfar Adumim, some 10km east of Jerusalem. It is home to approximately 400 settler families.
A short distance from Kfar Adumim is the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar. In contrast to the modern houses in the settlement, Khan al-Ahmar is little more than a collection of tin shacks. The village is home to approximately 180 Bedouin, more than half of whom are children. Most are Indigenous refugees who were driven out of Israel after the country’s creation in 1948. The Bedouin in the OPT self-identify as Indigenous Peoples. As such, they enjoy certain special rights over the land they occupy and the natural resources they use to sustain their traditional livelihoods and way of life.
Kfar Adumim was built in 1979, more than 30 years after the Bedouin established their village. Israel built the settlement on a ridge with commanding views over the Judean desert and the Jordan Valley. The settlement is close to several tourist attractions, including the Ein Prat/Wadi Qelt Nature Reserve. This reserve is managed by a government agency, the Israel Nature and Parks Authority.
For years, Israel has been trying to relocate the residents of Khan al-Ahmar (as well as other Bedouin communities in Area C) against their wishes, to expand settlements in the region. Amnesty International, the UN and others have documented how the Israeli government has tried to force the people of Khan al-Ahmar off their land. Firstly, they have created what the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) has termed a “coercive environment, which functions as a ‘push factor’”. This is intended to make the lives of the Bedouin as difficult as possible. Measures have included: refusing to connect homes to the electricity network; confiscating solar panels; failing to ensure adequate access to water; rejecting applications for building permits; demolishing structures, including homes and animal shelters; threatening further demolitions; restricting access to roads and grazing land by creating settlements; restricting access to further grazing lands by creating military areas and the Ein Prat/Wadi Qelt Nature Reserve; denying people permits to work in settlements; and failing to protect the community from intimidation and attacks by Israeli settlers.
These “push factors” constitute, or have led to, violations of many human rights of the people of Khan al-Ahmar, including the rights to adequate housing and to an adequate standard of living. The establishment and development of the Kfar Adumim settlement has encroached on almost all the land the Bedouin used to graze their animals. This has severely impacted their traditional source of livelihood, forcing them to live in hardship. It has also impaired their rights, as Indigenous Peoples, to freely pursue their economic development; use and enjoy their land, territories and resources; and enjoy their own means of subsistence, among others. Villagers now try to earn a living through low-paid seasonal agricultural work elsewhere and they also receive humanitarian relief from the Palestinian authorities. This amounts to about US$250 a month, which residents told Amnesty International only just about covers essential household expenditure.
In addition, the Israeli government has directly ordered the demolition of Khan al-Ahmar on the grounds that villagers did not acquire relevant building permits. The government has done this without implementing any of the legal safeguards prescribed by international law to protect the right to adequate housing, such as prior consultation, notice and the provision of adequate alternative accommodation. Furthermore, such a move would violate their right as Indigenous Peoples not to be forcefully removed from their territories and lands without their free, prior and informed consent.
Since 2009, the Bedouin have fought this through the Israeli courts. However, on 24 May 2018, the Supreme Court ruled that demolitions could go ahead despite the government’s failure to guarantee minimal due process safeguards and avoid forced evictions. The village is now facing demolition and the forcible transfer of its residents to make way for further illegal settlements. The demolition order includes the village’s school, which provides education for some 170 Bedouin children. If implemented, these actions will constitute war crimes, as well as violations of the human rights to adequate housing,224 education and non-interference with family and home.
The development of a lucrative tourism industry based in and around Kfar Adumim has contributed to the economy of the neighbouring settlements and galvanized the drive for further expansion. At the time of writing, Kfar Adumim and three smaller satellite settlements were home to 30 Airbnb properties – the largest cluster in the OPT outside East Jerusalem. Many properties were presented as luxury accommodation. For example, the “Desert Lookout” is a 12-bed villa for rent costing US$440 a night. Its listing described it as having a heated swimming pool and a “spectacular desert view”.
As well as private residential properties, Airbnb provided three separate listings for “Desert Camping Israel” – a campsite in the desert east of Kfar Adumim. There, guests could hire tents for as much as US$235 a night to “experience the tranquillity of the desert and get a taste of warm Israeli hospitality”. At the time of writing, Booking.com, Expedia and Hotels.com all also listed “Desert Camping Israel”. Booking.com listed a further five apartments to rent, and Expedia and Hotels.com listed two each.
TripAdvisor also had several listings in Kfar Adumim and the surrounding area. These included two properties that can be rented through its website. The first is a one-bedroom apartment, which boasts a jacuzzi. The second is a two-bedroom family home, with views of Jerusalem and the Jordan Valley. In addition, TripAdvisor provided details and reviews of a hotel, two restaurants and five “things to do”, including the Ein Prat park. It also lists “Genesis Land”, which has the same owners as “Desert Camping Israel”. There, visitors can ride camels and eat a meal in a traditional Bedouin-style tent in the desert with actors dressed as Biblical characters. The “Genesis Land” gift shop sells produce grown and manufactured by Israeli settlers, including olive oil, honey, herbs and handicrafts.
Through their listings and promotion of tourist accommodation and attractions in Kfar Adumim and neighbouring settlements, Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia and TripAdvisor have driven tourism into the area and generated profits for both settlers and themselves. Their activities have contributed significantly to the growth and expansion of the settlements that are driving violations of the human rights of the Bedouin community. As well as contributing to an illegal situation, these companies are also indirectly contributing to these human rights violations.
In addition, their listings specifically featured tourist attractions such as the Ein Prat/Wadi Qelt Nature Reserve, “Genesis Land” and “Desert Camping Israel”, which have been built or developed on land previously used by the Bedouin community for herding. The companies earn money every time a booking to visit these attractions is made. In this way, the companies have directly benefited from past and ongoing human rights violations associated with the illegal exploitation of Bedouin land and are helping to perpetuate these violations.
As with the other case studies detailed below, Airbnb will cease to do so once it fully implements its 18 November announcement to delist properties and attractions in the area.
Case Study Two: Shiloh – Qaryut and Jalud
“This is one of my favourite locations to visit. There is a sta te-of-the-art visitors centre (and a great gift shop with items made by local artisans).” TripAdvisor review
Israel has constructed a line of settlements in the north of the West Bank near Nablus. At their heart is Shiloh, a settlement of about 3,000 Israelis. It is located next to the Palestinian farming villages of Qaryut and Jalud and an archaeological site. The Israeli government and settler organizations have identified this site as one of the most important visitor attractions in the West Bank. It is on the list of heritage sites that have received Israeli government funding.
The establishment of Shiloh and neighbouring settlements on Palestinian-owned land and the development of the ancient ruins into a visitor attraction are inextricably linked. Settlers moved to Shiloh in the 1970s on the pretext that they were there to work as archaeologists. The settlement later received official Israeli approval and its municipal boundary was expanded in 1992 to include the Palestinian-owned farmland containing the ancient ruins and archaeological site. Since the late 1990s, settlers have established more than 10 new settlements on the surrounding hills and continue to expand them.
This has led to the confiscation of thousands of hectares of land owned by the two Palestinian villages for the construction of settlements. The farmers can only access other areas of land close to the settlements after receiving prior permission from the Israeli military. In total, Jalud has lost approximately 3,500 hectares, and Qaryut more than 2,000 hectares. This includes farmland and groves that are now included within the boundaries of the archaeological site. The result of these restrictions and the loss of land has been harsh. According to a 2015 report by humanitarian agencies, Palestinian residents of these villages, for whom farming is a main source of income, “have seen their agricultural practice and productivity undermined, with a detrimental effect on their livelihoods and resilience”.
The Israeli military has also barred Palestinians from using the main road leading from Qaryut to the south of the West Bank as it passes close to the archaeological site. The closure forces villagers to take an 18km detour to reach another village (which is otherwise just 1km away), as well as some of their farmland (which is only 500m away). Public transport to the village stops at 4pm so people who have to travel for work, education or to access health care are forced to pay for shared taxis. Private security guards prevent villagers from walking to this land.
The result of all these restrictions has been to damage the local economy and many residents have moved away.
People are leaving the village now because we are isolated. Many people sold their lands and houses and moved out to Ramallah. The village is not located next to the main road any more so no one would come here, unless they have a reason to. Many s hops have recently closed because their business was not working properly.
These restrictions breach community members’ rights to non-discrimination in access to the rights to an adequate standard of living and to freedom of movement, among others. They may also violate the community’s rights to education and health care.
In addition, settlers have frequently attacked Palestinian farmers and vandalized their olive trees, further impacting livelihoods. The Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din describes the area as a “hotspot” for attacks by settlers on Palestinians in the West Bank. Basher Muammar, who documents cases of settler violence, described to Amnesty International how armed settlers frequently enter the villages to intimidate people. These attacks are continuing in the absence of appropriate action by the Israeli authorities to prevent them or hold those responsible to account. The result for villagers is a sense of injustice and the constant fear of renewed attacks, which can have a severe impact on their mental health. As such, these actions constitute violations of the rights of the Palestinian residents to health and remedy.
In stark contrast to the restrictions placed by Israel on the residents of Qaryut and Jalud, the Israeli government has supported ambitious plans by the settlers to develop the archaeological site into a major tourist attraction. In 2010, the Israeli authorities handed over management of the site to a private organization run by settlers, which in 2013 opened a new museum and auditorium. In 2014, the settlers also published plans for the expansion of the tourist facilities, including a vast new visitor and conference centre with the capacity to accommodate 5,000 people a day.
Residents of surrounding Israeli settlements have sought to profit from the growth in tourism by advertising their homes on digital tourism websites. For example, at the time of writing, Airbnb listed five properties here. One of these was in Shiloh settlement itself (which charged one person US$98 per night at a house called “Incense of Shilo. Calm the soul”). Two properties were in the neighbouring Eli settlement, which is also built on Qaryut land, (for US$117 and US$123 per night). The others were in the settlement “outposts” of Esh Kodesh (US$192 per night) and Mount Kida (US$151 per night), which were built on the land of Jalud village. Booking.com listed an eight-bed “lodge” for rent in Eli settlement (on land owned by Qaryut).
TripAdvisor provided a listing for the archaeological site itself and advertised the services of several Israeli tour guides based in Jerusalem and elsewhere who include Shiloh on their itineraries for Israeli and foreign visitors.
Through their listings, Airbnb, Booking.com and TripAdvisor have helped drive tourists to the area, contributing to the economic development of Shiloh and the surrounding settlements. For example, the settler organization that manages the site benefits financially from ticket sales sold to the tens of thousands of visitors who come every year, as well as the souvenirs and produce sold in its shop, such as olive oil and wine, that are manufactured or grown by settlers.
As a result, online tourism companies have contributed not only to an illegal situation but also, indirectly, to the many human rights violations resulting from these settlements. If it implements its announcement of November 2018 and delists properties from this area, Airbnb will cease to do so.
In addition, TripAdvisor listed the Tel Shiloh archaeological site itself. The development of this site into a major attraction that sustains surrounding settlements is a key factor exacerbating the human rights violations against nearby Palestinian communities. By promoting this site on its website, TripAdvisor is directly benefiting from, and contributing to, these violations.
Case Study Three: Susya - Khirbet Susiya
“Every visitor of the land of Israel should definitely come vis it this site. It can give you a better perspective of Israel. Fun place!” TripAdvisor review.
Susya is an Israeli settlement of 1,000 people in the far south of the West Bank. It was established in 1983, next to an archaeological site, on land belonging to the Palestinian residents of Khirbet Susiya village. In 2002, settlers also established an “outpost” inside the boundaries of the archaeological site and settlers now live there. Visitors to the Susya archaeological site make a financial contribution to the neighbouring settlement that manages the ruins. A visitor centre serves as a showcase for produce and goods that are grown or manufactured by settlers in Susya settlement and the surrounding area, including wine, herbs, olive oil and handicrafts.
Amnesty International and other organizations have documented how the archaeological site and settlement, as well as these businesses, have affected the lives of about 300 Palestinian residents of Khirbet Susiya village. For decades, they lived in homes among the ruins of ancient Susya, with farmland all around. In 1982, they lost much of this when the settlement was built and four years later when the Israeli authorities declared the village land an archaeological site and forcibly evicted them. The families then moved onto what remained of their land outside the archaeological site. They received no offer of alternative accommodation or compensation, which are key safeguards to ensure
respect for the right to adequate housing and to avoid forced evictions.
The Palestinian villagers now live in tents and temporary shelters. The Israeli authorities have refused to issue them with building permits and in 1999, 2001 and 2011 demolished many of their new shelters. The authorities also blocked water cisterns and wells, severely impacting their right to access safe, affordable water. Residents live with the constant fear that their homes will be demolished and have been fighting a legal battle for years to prevent this. However, in January 2018, Israel’s Supreme Court ordered the demolition of several tents and shelters.
At night a bulldozer could destroy everything. Children here live in fear.
Israel has refused to connect the village to the water and sewage system and electricity networks. Residents told Amnesty International that they are forced to pay for water to be trucked in from a nearby Palestinian town. In 2015, the UN estimated that about a third of villagers’ income was spent paying for water. This constitutes a breach of Israel’s obligation to provide an affordable supply of water and puts at risk the realization of other human rights, such as the right to an adequate standard of living and food. By contrast the settlement is connected to the electricity grid, as well as to water and sewage and even has a municipal swimming pool.
In the 1990s the Israeli military authorities allocated an area of more than 150 hectares of Palestinian-owned land for the development of the settlement. This area is now guarded by military watchtowers and Palestinians cannot approach. If they do, they risk being stopped by the Israeli army and taken to a military base for questioning.
“They let the settlers go wherever they want, but we are not even allowed to reach our land or cross it because it is a security area.” Hamdan Hreini.
The loss of land has forced the village to cut back the size of its herds. Farmer Azam Nawaja said he used to have 150 sheep, but now can only manage to look after 25. Azam Nawaja also reported that settlers often come to destroy the village’s olive trees. He said that three years ago they cut down 300 of his. Settlers vandalized and damaged 800 olive trees and saplings in 2014 alone. Residents also complain of harassment by the settlers, who are sometimes armed. Ola Nawaja described how her three daughters, aged seven, 12 and 13, were attacked by two settlers, who threw stones at them as they were on their way back from school.
Three days before Amnesty International researchers visited Khirbet Susiya in June 2018, residents said that settlers had flown a drone over their tents to film them. Fatma, aged 39, said that the drone had hovered over the women while they were sitting together on the ground and eating a meal. “We were upset, this is against our right to privacy and our culture.” The Palestinian community of Khirbet Susiya was forcibly evicted from the land it used to live in when in 1986 the Israeli government declared the ancient ruins of Susya an archaeological site. As well as amounting to forcible transfer (a violation of international humanitarian law and a war crime), this violated the human right to adequate housing of the Palestinian residents. The establishment of the Susya settlement in 1983 and its subsequent expansion in the 1990s also significantly reduced the amount of land the farming community could use for herding and other agricultural activities. Israeli authorities have consistently failed to intervene to stop and punish these regular acts of harassment and vandalism, in breach of their duty to protect the Palestinians from the harmful acts of third parties and to guarantee an effective remedy when abuses occur. Residents of Khirbet Susiya have been subjected to a coercive environment aimed at driving them away from their land and amounting to violations of Israel’s duty to respect Palestinian villagers’ human rights to adequate housing, an adequate standard of living, water, sanitation, physical integrity, privacy and remedy. At the time of writing, the settlements and archaeological site featured on both Airbnb and TripAdvisor. Airbnb advertised a six-bedroom house in Susya settlement for US$126 per person per night. The host of the property said it was a suitable base for tourists wanting to visit the area and that “as a licensed tour guide I can guide you to visit local winery, goat milk plant, farms, vineyards and the famous ancient town of Susya”. As well as photographs of the house, Airbnb also hosted photographs of places that travellers could visit: the Susya ruins, an olive grove and the large swimming pool in the settlement.
TripAdvisor provided tourist information on two settlement-linked attractions in Susya. One of these is a winery and vineyard next to the settlement on land that was taken from the Palestinians of Khirbet Susiya. TripAdvisor also listed the archaeological site. “The occupiers forced us to leave our land as they wanted to ma ke money from tourists. They
could have given it to us to manage it. We wouldn’t have destro yed it, but the occupiers would never let us profit from our own land.” Azam Nawaja, a Khirbet Susiya resident.
Despite the historic and ongoing violations of the human rights of residents of Khirbet Susiya, TripAdvisor and Airbnb have featured Susya on their websites and helped Susya settlers promote their businesses to the outside world. In doing so, both TripAdvisor and Airbnb have contributed to the economy of the settlement and therefore to maintaining an illegal situation. The companies have also contributed, indirectly to the human rights violations associated with these settlements.
As with the other case studies detailed below, Airbnb will cease to do so if it fully implements its announcement to delist properties and attractions in the area. Furthermore, by listing a vineyard developed on illegally appropriated Palestinian land, TripAdvisor has contributed to, and financially benefited from, the illegal exploitation of Palestinian natural resources. Finally, by listing the archaeological site from which the community was evicted in 1986, TripAdvisor has directly benefited from, and contributed to, the perpetuation of the historic and ongoing violation of the human right to adequate housing of the Palestinian residents.