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Representatives of International Organizations and Corporations Normalize Annexation through Tourism in the OPT

Sunday, 28 October 2018 10:11 Date: 28 October 2018
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Al-Haq calls attention to and notes its dismay and concern over the recent participation of representatives of international organizations and businesses[1] in Israel’s “International Tourism Security Summit,” held on 7-9 October 2018, in Jerusalem. Such participation flouts international law, and corresponding positions on the status of Jerusalem by the United Nations (UN) and nearly all Third States, which do not recognize Israeli sovereignty over the city[2]. Participation also serves to perpetuate an Israeli narrative on Jerusalem, tourism, and alleged security risks, which aims to ignore the reality of Israel’s policies and practices that have systematically targeted the Palestinian population for more than seven decades, through forcible transfer and the attempted erasure of their identity[3] in the city and throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).

Such practices also include the unlawful confiscation of Palestinian land, which may be used for the tourism sector. The UN, for example, has noted:

The Government of Israel has continued the practice of declaring and developing archaeological sites and parks as a means to expand control over land in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.”[4]

Given these and other positions by the UN, Al-Haq is deeply troubled by the UN World Tourism Organization’s (UNWTO) participation in the conference, and accordingly issued a letter to the UNWTO’s Secretary-General. 

Companies, such as Expedia and TripAdvisor, which participated in the conference also should consider and uphold the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), in their respective business policies. Both companies facilitate the marketing and booking of Israeli settlement properties and tours in the OPT, including in Jerusalem. By doing so, the companies are supporting Israel’s unlawful settlement enterprise, and violating the UNGPs which call on businesses to respect international humanitarian law and international human rights. Notably, the UN is currently developing a database of all companies which “contribute to and benefit from the establishment maintenance and growth of settlements” in the OPT, including “The tourism industry, including tour companies, online accommodation and travel booking sites, and rental car companies, all of which help to make the settlements profitable and sustainable.”[5]

Al-Haq urges the participants, especially those affiliated with international organizations and business enterprises, to not participate in similar events organized by Israeli authorities in the OPT in the future, and provide an explanation for their participation in Israel’s “International Tourism Security Summit.” Such actors must refrain from participating in activities and events which contribute to or legitimize Israel’s unlawful annexationist policies and practices in the OPT, including in Jerusalem.

A copy of the letter to the UNWTO can be found here.

 

 

[1] For the list of speakers at the Summit, see http://www.tourismsafety.org/

[2] The UN General Assembly recently reaffirmed that all actions taken to alter the status of Jerusalem by Israel were “null and void,” and urged States to not move their embassies there. See: General Assembly Overwhelmingly Adopts Resolution Asking Nations Not to Locate Diplomatic Missions in Jerusalem, 21 December 2017, https://www.un.org/press/en/2017/ga11995.doc.htm

[3] This includes the renaming of neighborhoods and streets to “Judaize” the city. See for example: 30 East Jerusalem streets given Hebrew names, enraging Arab residents, Times of Israel, 21 September 2015, https://www.timesofisrael.com/hebrew-street-names-okayed-for-east-jerusalem-enraging-arab-residents/

[4] Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the Occupied Syrian Golan, Report of the Secretary-General, 20 January 2016, A/HRC/31/43, para. 16.

[5] Database of all business enterprises involved in the activities detailed in paragraph 96 of the report of the independent international fact-finding mission to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, 16 January 2018, https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/RegularSessions/Session37/Documents/A_HRC_37_39_EN.pdf