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article imageIsrael minister threatens to ban Amnesty over Airbnb policy

By AFP     Jan 30, 2019 in Travel

Israel has threatened to bar Amnesty International from access to the Jewish state over its charge Wednesday that digital tourism companies are profiting from "war crimes" in the occupied West Bank.

The London-based rights group called on online giants Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia and TripAdvisor to stop listing tourist accommodation, activities and attractions in settlements in occupied territories, including east Jerusalem.

"The hypocritical Amnesty International speaks in the name of human rights and in practice promotes boycotts against Israeli citizens as part of the anti-Semitic boycott and delegitimisation campaign," Israeli public security minister Gilad Erdan said in a Hebrew-language statement released Tuesday night.

"I instructed the ministry of strategic affairs to examine the possibility of preventing Amnesty personnel from entering, or residing in, Israel," said Erdan who is also strategic affairs minister, charged with opposing the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

He said he had started to act well before the official publication of Amnesty's "Destination: Occupation" study.

"A few weeks ago I asked the finance minister to end the tax benefits granted to the organisation," he said without giving details.

In its report, Amnesty said Israel's occupation of the West Bank and east Jerusalem was governed by international humanitarian law under which settlements were deemed illegal.

Israel's Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan is threatening to ban Amnesty International from ...
Israel's Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan is threatening to ban Amnesty International from the country over a campaign for digital accommodation providers to stop listing properties in occupied Palestinian territories
Ahmad GHARABLI, AFP/File

"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."

In November, Airbnb announced it was removing from its rental listings settlement homes in the occupied West Bank.

But it never said when the decision would go into force.

Israel passed legislation in March 2017 banning entry to foreigners who support boycotting the country or its settlements.

In November of that year Erdan's office denied entry to a US employee of Amnesty, with an interior ministry spokeswoman giving the grounds as "BDS", without elaborating.

Israel sees the boycott movement as a strategic threat and accuses it of anti-Semitism -- a claim activists deny, saying they want only to see an end to Israel's occupation.

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 settlements in occupied east Jerusalem.

Israeli settlements are considered illegal under international law and major roadblocks to peace, as they are built on land Palestinians see as part of their future state.

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