Is the reversal on Palestine corporate hypocrisy? | Business and Economy News

When online travel agency announced last month which it will specify Israeli Settlements inside occupied the West Bank as “occupied territory” and warned of “an increased risk to safety and human rights”, it was welcomed as part of the growing international recognition that the occupation of land by Palestinians should not be ignored by businesses.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, however, as, as has happened in the past with other companies, it was pushed back to September 30.

Instead, after pressure from the Israeli government, the Dutch company, one of the world’s leading digital tourism businesses, swapped the word “occupied” to “affected by conflict.” , and added banners warning not only Israeli but also Palestinian facilities in occupying the West Bank.

“Please review any travel advice provided by your government to make an informed decision about your stay in this area that could be considered conflict-affected. ,” the company’s website now says.

The warnings are “to ensure that customers have the information they need to make informed decisions about the destinations they are considering, which could be classified as conflict-affected areas, and may pose a risk to travelers,” said in a statement.

The warnings do not appear for properties in East Jerusalem or the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, both territories, such as the West Bank, which were captured by Israel during the 1967 War and remain occupied.

Under international law, Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories and the Syrian Golan Heights are illegal.

Susan Power, head of legal research and advocacy for Palestinian rights group al-Haq, said companies like are profiting from war crimes and the continuation of their settlement business. Israel on the occupied Palestinian territories.

“Essentially, the companies are operating on land that belongs to the Palestinians and has been illegally expropriated from them – offenses that could seriously violate the 1949 Geneva Conventions, war crimes and crimes against humanity within the scope of the International Criminal Court,” she told Al Jazeera.

Ines Abdel Razek, advocacy director for the Ramallah-based Palestinian Institute of Public Diplomacy (PIPD), agrees.

“By continuing to list accommodations in illegal settlements or dealing with them, they are essentially continuing to give freedom to colonization, segregation and racism, profit from Palestinian land and resource theft, labor exploitation and mass deportations,” she said.

Worse still, by equating the rents of Palestinian-owned real estate with the rents of illegal Israeli settlers, Booking is failing in its own responsibility and asserted commitment to ‘protect local communities’.”

Compliance in the context of a readjustment

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid hailed’s turnaround as an Israeli victory against delegation.

“We thank for changing its mind,” he said in a statement crediting the tourism and foreign affairs ministries for having had a “discrete (sic) and productive dialogue” with The company has brought about change.

This is not the first time an international company has rejected its policy of working and profiting from occupied West Bank settlements.

In 2019, Airbnb, which operates accommodations and short-term rentals, reversed its stance of removing listings of Israeli settlements from its website, citing it never intended to boycott Israeli businesses or landlords.

“Airbnb always opposes [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions] the company said in a statement at the time, referred to the movement of Palestinian civil organizations demanding that Israel be held accountable for its occupation. “Airbnb has never boycotted Israel, Israeli businesses or the more than 20,000 Israeli hosts operating on the Airbnb platform.”

It went on to say that it would not benefit financially from the listing in the region and that profits would be donated to nonprofits dedicated to providing humanitarian assistance in other parts of the world.

Airbnb two
Airbnb had previously decided in November 2018 to remove listings in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, before later reversing its decision. [File: Mohamad Torokman/Reuters]

The reversal came as part of a legal settlement after potential hosts and servers filed lawsuits in Israel and the United States against the San Francisco-based company, citing their opposition to the order. prohibited by the company.

But the resumption of operations in occupied territory by these companies only makes them complicit in Israel’s violation of Palestinian rights, said Hugh Lovatt, senior policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations. (ECFR), said.

“By continuing to list illegally built properties in Israeli settlements, these foreign businesses are implicating themselves and foreign tourists in illegal actions. internationalization of Israel and human rights violations against Palestinians – all of which are investigated by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes,” he told Al Jazeera.

“Listing an incomplete and uninformed consultant does not shield these companies from the legal, reputational and financial risks associated with such practices.”

Al-Haq’s Power says companies cannot fake ignorance or indifference about where their business is located.

“Companies are well aware of their human rights responsibilities under international instruments, such as the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, including implementing enhanced accountability. high in conflict-affected areas, such as occupied Palestine,” Power said Al Jazeera.

“In making their reporting as required for enhanced accountability, companies will also receive a growing body of human rights reporting from Al-Mezan, Addameer, Al-Haq, Amnesty International international organizations, Human Rights Watch and B’ Tselem, that the occupation is taking place amid ongoing racism,” she continued.

“It is well established that racism is one of the most serious crimes in the international order, the prohibition of which is a rule of jus cogens, i.e. a rule from which it is not permissible to downgrade. pedestal. It’s that serious.”

Stop the pressure

More recently, American ice cream company Ben & Jerry’s announced in July 2021 that it would stop selling its products in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem due to air sales. consistent with the company’s values.

This led to an angry response from the highest levels of the Israeli government, with Yair Lapid – then foreign minister – calling the move “a shameful surrender to anti-Semitism.. for all that is evil in anti-Israel and anti-Semitic discourse”.

After nearly a year of constant pressure from the Israeli government and pro-Israel lobby groups in the US, Unilever – the parent company of Ben & Jerry’s – decided to ignore the ice cream maker’s decision. by licensing sales to third parties in Israel.

Abdel Razek from PIPD said the surrender from such companies to “the famous Israeli bullying and pressure” is only intended to reduce the actual value in practice.

“Booking and Airbnb are also adopting Israeli misreporting [the concrete reality] is ‘disputed’ and ‘complex’ to whitewash Israel’s war crimes [from] She said.

And in an age of social justice and “responsible capitalism,” in which companies demonstrate a determination to serve their customers and employees while caring about the communities in which they operate. , giving in to longstanding government pressure and putting profits before everyone else, says Abdel Razek.

“While these companies affirm their commitment to ‘advancing human rights everywhere’, they are applying very clear double standards to a zero-tolerance approach to Palestinians,” she said.

For Lovatt, companies that reverse their policies in occupied and merged territories risk not being considered responsible businesses.

“Fixing exceptions to serve political and ideological interests undermines any claim to responsible business practices,” he said.

INTERACT: Palestine / West Bank Illegal Settlements - 112 companies"
INTERACT: Palestine / West Bank Illegal Settlements – 112 companies


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