Booking.com
[Credit: Booking.com]

Booking.com investigated over Israeli settlement listing allegations

Netherlands: The Dutch Public Prosecutor [OM] is investigating a criminal complaint filed by human rights groups against Amsterdam-headquartered online travel agency Booking.com over the alleged listing of vacation homes in Israeli settlements. 

The Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations [SOMO], the European Legal Support Centre [ELSC], The Rights Forum [TRF] and the Palestinian civil society Al-Haq filed the criminal complaint in November last year but have only made the matter public recently.

The complaint was filed a month after the Palestinian Sunni Islamist group Hamas, designated a terrorist organisation in countries across Europe, the United States and the UK, led attacks against Israel from the Gaza Strip, killing more than 1,200 Israelis and foreign nationals. Israel has since faced international criticism for its response with military operations in the cities of Gaza and Rafah.

The human rights organisations have now publicly accused Booking.com of “laundering funds obtained from the commission of war crimes in the Occupied Palestinian Territory [OPT] and “profiting from war crimes” by “facilitating the rental of vacation homes on land stolen from the indigenous Palestinian population”.

They say that the legal basis of the criminal complaint is “Dutch anti-money laundering legislation” [specifically Article 1[4] of the Dutch International Crimes Act] and that the case is being brought after “years of research into Booking.com’s activities in illegal Israeli settlements”.

In addition, the NGOs are seeking action from Dutch law enforcement to “effectively end Booking.com’s involvement in war crimes against the Palestinians”.

Through its investigations, SOMO said that it had identified up to 70 listings – 13 in East Jerusalem and 57 in other areas of the West Bank – on Booking.com between 2022 and 2023.

Booking.com, which is both registered and based in Amsterdam, said that it disagreed with the allegations and that there are no laws prohibiting listings in Israeli settlements.

In a statement, the firm said: “Legal action has been taken against other companies that have tried to withdraw their activities, and we would expect the same to happen in our case.”

Speaking last week, Brechje van de Moosdijk, a spokesperson for the public prosecutor’s service in the Netherlands, said that lawyers were analysing the criminal complaint but that no timetable on a decision for future steps could yet be given.

The Dutch Cabinet currently does not recognise the Palestinian State and supports a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestine conflict, although the Palestinian Prime Minister, Mohammad Shtayyeh, has urged it to reconsider its position.

In the meantime, Spain, Ireland and Norway came out publicly earlier this week to recognise the Palestinian State.

Airbnb has previously come under fire for having – and then removing – short-term rental listings in the West Bank from its platform.

The company’s announcement in November 2018 that it would remove around 200 rental listings in West Bank settlements caused controversy as a group of American Jewish plaintiffs plaintiffs claimed that Airbnb was discriminating against Jewish people, given that the platform was still displaying listings by Palestinian Muslims and Christians in the West Bank. Airbnb then reversed its decision to remove West Bank settlement listings from its website the following April.

While Palestine aims to establish an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital, Israel lays its own claims to the land, citing Jewish historic connections.

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