What’s the problem with Israeli settlements?
Amnesty International is calling on Trip Advisor and other online booking companies to stop listing properties and tourist attractions in Israeli settlement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). Our research shows that TripAdvisor, AirBnB, Expedia and Booking.com are sustaining an illegal situation and fuelling human rights violations against Palestinians, by driving tourism to illegal Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian land.
Why do we distinguish between settlements and the rest of Israel?
Here’s a quick guide:
52 years ago, during the 1967 “Six-Day War” between Israel and its Arab neighbours, Israel occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the Gaza Strip, the Sinai Peninsula and the Golan Heights. The West Bank and Gaza areas are known as the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) and over which Israel exercises overall control. The 1967 war and its aftermath forced thousands of Palestinians to flee their land. Many were never allowed to return home and are still living as refugees, mostly in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and other parts of the OPT.
Amnesty and others criticize settlements because they are illegal
There are approximately 250 Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, ranging from tiny villages to large towns.
Under international law, it is illegal for an occupying power to transfer its own civilians into a territory it occupies or to transfer all or parts of the population of the occupied territory within or outside this territory. In fact, these acts constitute war crimes under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, as does the unnecessary destruction and appropriation of property in occupied territory.
From the start, Israel ignored these laws and began building settlements in the land it had captured. Successive Israeli governments also have made it their policy to expand settlements, providing subsidies and tax incentives to encourage Jewish Israelis to move there. Most states, as well as the European Union and the United Nations, consider settlements to be illegal.
Amnesty and other human rights organizations also criticize settlements because they cause great harm to Palestinians
Israels settlement policy is also one of the main driving forces behind the mass human rights violations resulting from the occupation. Since 1967 more than 100,000 hectares of Palestinian land have been appropriated for use by Israeli settlements. To make way for the 600,000-plus settlers who now live on occupied land, 50,000 Palestinian homes and structures have been demolished.
Today, Palestinian civilians continue to be subjected to forced displacement, including forcible deportation and transfer, the confiscation of their land and natural resources, the demolition of their homes, properties and infrastructure, and restrictions on their movement. This has a devastating impact on Palestinians’ rights to an adequate standard of living, to work, to housing, to health, and to education and has progressively crippled the Palestinian economy.
The Israeli military controls every aspect of Palestinian life in the OPT
The military has imposed strict restrictions on travel for Palestinians in the OPT. This affects where Palestinians can go to work or school, whether they can visit their relatives, travel abroad or access their farmland.
Israel’s illegal air, land and sea blockade of the Gaza Strip entered its 12th year, restricting the movement of people and goods into and out of the area, and collectively punishing Gaza’s 2 million residents.
Israel also controls and restricts Palestinians’ access to clean water. Many Palestinians struggle to get enough water to wash, cook, clean or drink, let alone water their crops. Meanwhile Israeli settlements have swimming pools, well-watered lawns and large irrigated farms – many of which are listed as attractions by online booking companies. Water consumption by Israelis is at least four times that of Palestinians living in the OPT.
Thousands of Palestinian civilians and hundreds of Israeli civilians have been killed over tensions related to the occupation
Israeli forces have unlawfully killed and injured thousands of Palestinian civilians in the OPT, including during protests against the confiscation of land.
Since 1987, more than 10,200 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli army, often in circumstances which may amount to war crimes.
In the same period, more than 1,400 Israelis have been killed by Palestinians. Of these, hundreds have been civilians killed by Palestinian armed groups in attacks that constitute crimes under international law.
There are different laws for Palestinians
Since 1967 hundreds of thousands of Palestinians have been arrested under military orders, many of which criminalise peaceful activities. Israel has set up military courts to prosecute Palestinians. Virtually all cases brought before these courts end in convictions as the result of plea bargains. Hundreds of Palestinians are currently held without charge or trial under what is called administrative detention.
There are currently at least 210 Palestinian children held in Israeli prisons and detention centres. In December 2017, 16-year-old Ahed Tamimi was arrested and sentenced to eight months in prison for slapping an Israeli soldier – hours after soldiers shot her 14-year-old cousin in the head.
Israeli settlers living in the West Bank are not subjected to the military court system and instead are governed by Israeli civil law.
Settlement tourism is making the situation worse
Online booking companies like TripAdvisor promote numerous properties and attractions in the settlements, and in doing so contribute to, and profit from, the maintenance, development and expansion of illegal settlements. The Israeli government uses the growing tourism industry in the settlements as a way of normalizing and legitimizing their existence and expansion.
In one village Amnesty visited, Khirbet Susiya, Palestinian residents have lived in temporary shelters since they were forcibly evicted to make way for the creation of a settlement called Susya in 1983, and an archaeological site built on the ruins of ancient Susya in 1986. Since then, the villagers have lost vast swathes of farmland and had to cut back the size of its herds, its main source of income. The Israeli authorities have blocked water cisterns and wells in Khirbet Susya, and villagers spend about a third of their income paying for water. The Palestinians of Khirbet Susiya also live in fear that their homes or other property could be demolished at any time and face systematic violence and harassment at the hands of Israeli settlers. TripAdvisor lists as tourist attractions the archaeological site, along with a winery and vineyard inside the settlement of Susya. This is an example of how the tourism industry is directly linked to settlement expansion, and how it fuels the suffering of Palestinians.
Amnesty is not calling for a boycott on Israel
Our focus is the growing economy of the illegal settlements, not the Israeli economy. As such, we are not calling on online travel agencies to stop booking holidays in Israel. We want online booking companies to stop pumping money into an enterprise which causes terrible suffering to Palestinians, and violates international law.
If tourism companies stop advertising listings in settlements, there will obviously be a detrimental impact on the livelihoods of some settlers. The responsibility for this rests entirely with the State of Israel. It has been government policy since 1967 to promote the creation and expansion of settlements in the OPT, despite knowing that this is illegal and harmful to the occupied Palestinian population.
Amnesty International is seeking an end to economic activity involving illegal settlements in the OPT. We believe that action should be taken by companies to avoid contributing to an illegal situation and to human rights violations, and by states in order to uphold their obligation not to recognise and assist an illegal situation.
Our calls are not anti-Semitic
Amnesty International opposes discrimination, racism and hate crime in all forms, whether against people of a specific religion, nationality, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity, or other protected characteristics, including against Jews or people perceived as Jewish.
The focus of our campaign is not motivated by discrimination and it does not focus on individuals. The focus is to stop businesses from operating in or with settlements, given the illegality of settlements under international law and the fact that they cause tremendous harm and suffering to the occupied Palestinian population.