Booking Agency Adds Safety Advisory for Yehuda and Shomron Properties

YERUSHALAYIM (Reuters/Hamodia) – Online travel agency has added safety labels to listings in Yehuda and Shomron, which Israel, having initially opposed the move, welcomed for not singling out Jewish communities.

The move was rebuked by Palestinian officials, who said the advisory should only be used for Israeli properties.

The company now posts an advisory on its website when customers search for properties in both Palestinian cities as well as Israeli ones in the region. The note recommends that customers review their governments’ travel advisories for the area, which “may be considered conflict-affected.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said that following its “discreet and efficient” dialogue with the company’s management, and despite concerns that the properties owned by Israelis could be singled out, no such distinction was made.

Booking had originally intended far harsher wording, marking the region as “occupied” and saying visits entailed “human rights risks,” but relented, the ministry said.

A spokesperson for told The Times of Israel that the company plans “to roll out banner notifications in more than 30 regions over the next few months to ensure that customers have the information they need to make informed decisions about destinations they are considering, which may be categorized as disputed or conflict-affected areas and which may pose greater risks to travelers.”

She added that such a banner has already been introduced in Northern Cyprus, Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh and South Ossetia.

The travel agency announced that it would take this step earlier this month, sparking backlash from the Israeli government, which threatened a “diplomatic war” in response.

Foreign tourism companies like Airbnb, and TripAdvisor long have sparked controversy for allowing West Bank settlers to post places for rent, with no mention that these settlements are considered a violation of international law. Many rental sites, from suburban-type settlements near Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem to far-flung outposts deep in the occupied territories, list their location only as Israel.

Some half-million Jewish settlers live in the West Bank, which Israel captured in the 1967 Six Day War. The Palestinians seek these lands as parts of a future independent state.

Human Rights Watch described the travel warning on Friday as a “welcome step” to help prevent customers from unwittingly landing in illegal settlements. But the group urged tourism companies to go further by removing their listings in West Bank settlements.

“Notification in and of itself doesn’t end Booking’s contribution to serious rights abuses,” said Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine Director for Human Rights Watch. “The company should stop brokering rentals in illegal settlements in places like the occupied West Bank.”

But stopping risks Israeli uproar. Israel and its supporters have accused those who support boycotts of Israel or its settlements of antisemitism. Airbnb scrapped its plan to remove listings in the settlements in 2019 after lawsuits were filed against it in the United States and Israel.

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