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

When online travel agency announced last month that it would designate Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank as “occupied territory” and warn of an “increased risk to security and human rights “, she was greeted as part of a growing international recognition that the occupation of Palestinian lands should not be ignored by corporations.

But, it was perhaps unsurprising when, as has happened in the past with other companies, it backtracked on September 30.

Instead, after pressure from the Israeli government, the Dutch company, one of the world’s leading digital travel companies, replaced the word “occupied” with “affected by the conflict”, and added banners of warning not only to Israeli but also Palestinian properties in the occupied West Bank.

“Please review all travel advisories provided by your government to make an informed decision regarding your stay in this area, which may be considered conflict-affected,” the company’s website now reads.

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

The warnings do not appear on properties in Israel’s annexed East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights, two territories which, like the West Bank, were seized by Israel in the 1967 war and have remained under occupation.

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 profit from war crimes and the continued settlement enterprise of Israel. Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

“Basically, the companies are operating on land that belongs to Palestinians and has been illegally confiscated from them – criminal acts that constitute grave violations of the 1949 Geneva Conventions, war crimes and crimes against humanity under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court,” she told Al Jazeera.

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

“By continuing to list accommodation in illegal settlements or by trading with them, they essentially continue to give a free pass to colonization, segregation and racism, profiting off the backs of Palestinians, stealing of land and resources, labor exploitation and mass evictions,” she says.

“Worse, by equating rentals of Palestinian-owned properties with those of illegal Israeli settlers, Booking is failing in its responsibility and its own stated commitment to “protect local communities.”

Compliance in the middle of the coaster

Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid hailed the reversal of as an Israeli victory against delegitimization.

“We thank for changing its decision,” he said in a statement that credited the foreign and tourism ministries for a “low-key (sic) and effective dialogue” with the company that brought about the change.

This is not the first time that an international company has reversed its policy regarding the work and profit of settlements in the occupied West Bank.

In 2019, Airbnb, which runs short-term stays and rentals, reversed its stance on removing listings in Israeli settlements from its website, citing that it never intended to boycott businesses or Israeli hosts.

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

He added that he would not benefit financially from registrations in the region and that the profits would be donated to non-profit organizations specializing in humanitarian aid in other parts of the world.

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

The cancellation came as part of a legal settlement after hosts and potential hosts filed a lawsuit in Israel and the United States against the San Francisco-based company, citing their objection to the company’s ban. .

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

“By continuing to list illegally built properties in Israeli settlements, these foreign companies are implicating themselves, along with foreign tourists, in Israel’s illegal actions and human rights abuses against Palestinians – all of which under investigation for war crimes by the International Criminal Court (ICC),” he told Al Jazeera.

“Listing of an uninformative and incomplete notice does not absolve these businesses of the legal, reputational and financial risks associated with such acts.”

Al-Haq’s Power said companies cannot feign ignorance or indifference about where their businesses operate.

“Companies are well aware of their human rights responsibilities under international instruments, such as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, including to exercise due diligence reasonable increase in conflict-affected areas, such as the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” Power said. AlJazeera.

“By reporting in accordance with enhanced due diligence requirements, companies will also receive the growing number of human rights reports from Al-Mezan, Addameer, Al-Haq, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and B’ Tselem, that the occupation is taking place in the context of ongoing apartheid,” she continued.

“It is well established that apartheid is one of the most serious crimes in the international order, the prohibition of which is a norm of jus cogens, that is, a norm from which no derogation is permitted. It’s so serious.”

succumb to pressure

More recently, US 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 sales “inconsistent” with Israel’s values. business.

This provoked an angry reaction at the highest levels of the Israeli government, with Yair Lapid – then foreign minister – calling the decision a “shameful capitulation to anti-Semitism…to everything that is wrong with anti-Israel discourse and anti-Jew”.

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

The PIPD’s Abdel Razek said the companies’ capitulation to “well-known Israeli intimidation and pressure” only aims to ignore the reality on the ground.

“Booking and Airbnb also embrace Israeli misinformation [the concrete reality] as “contested” and “complicated” in order to whitewash Israel’s war crimes [from] which is unambiguously a military occupation and an illegal settler colonial enterprise condemned for decades by the UN and international tribunals,” she said.

And in an age of social justice and “responsible capitalism,” where corporations are brandishing their determination to serve their customers and employees, and to care for the communities in which they operate, bowing to sustained government pressure and doing putting profit before people reeks of hypocrisy, Abdel Razek said.

“While these companies affirm their commitment to ‘promoting human rights everywhere,’ they have a very clear double standard regarding their zero-tolerance approach when it comes to Palestinians,” she said.

For Lovatt, companies reversing their policies in occupied and annexed territories run the risk of not being taken seriously as responsible companies.

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

INTERACTIVE: Palestine/West Bank Illegal Settlements - 112 Companies"
INTERACTIVE: Palestine/West Bank Illegal Settlements – 112 Companies

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