Middle East

Rights groups file complaint against Booking.com for listing Israeli settlements

Human rights groups in the Netherlands have filed a criminal complaint against the hotel broker site Booking.com for possible war crimes, alleging it benefitted from listings in Israeli settlements within occupied Palestinian territories.

Dutch prosecutors confirmed they received the complaint filed by the European Legal Support Centre (ELSC), Al Haq, Somo and the Rights Forum on Thursday.

The collective of groups accused Booking.com of laundering money in the Netherlands from its business operations in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli settlements built on stolen Palestinian land are considered illegal under international law.

Booking.com has denied the claims and said there are no laws prohibiting listings in Israeli settlements, adding that various US state laws would prohibit divesting from the region. 

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“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,” a spokesperson for the company said in a statement. 

Dutch NGO SOMO said it found that Booking.com listed 70 properties in occupied East Jerusalem and West Bank between 2021 and 2023. 

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SOMO accused Booking.com of violating the Netherlands’s anti-money laundering rules by profiting from listings in illegal Israeli settlements. 

“We have been working on this complaint for years, responding to calls of Palestinians who have seen their property being stolen to end up as profitable vacation homes for settlers on Booking.com,” said Lydia de Leeuw from Somo in a statement.  

“Efforts by human rights groups, activists, and even concerned employees within the company to warn the company about its operations in the OPT have been systematically ignored,” added Somo. 

“These unlawful operations support a system of settler-colonialism and racial domination that amounts to apartheid, but companies profiting from those violations and facilitating them hardly face legal scrutiny. This is unacceptable and must stop.” 

In 2022, Booking.com said it would introduce a warning for customers visiting listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. 

Record year for Israeli settlements

Earlier this year, Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now reported a record year for Israeli settlements, with new approvals for residential units in the Jordan Valley. 

Peace Now added that the size of the seized area was the largest since 1993 Oslo Accords and that “2024 marks a peak in the extent of declarations of state land”.  

Approximately 700,000 Israeli settlers live in roughly 300 illegal settlements in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem.

The Netherlands, like other European countries, deems settlements built on Palestinian land captured by Israel in 1967 as illegal. 

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