The online travel agency Booking.com announced on Monday that they would be adding safety warnings to accommodations in Judea and Samaria, the Golan Heights, and the eastern section of Jerusalem. The postings warning about staying in Jewish-owned accommodations in the Biblical heartland will take effect next Thursday.
A text will appear next to certain accommodations warning that they were planning to travel to a “disputed, conflict-affected or high-risk” area that “ may be accompanied by an increased risk to safety, human rights, and other risks to guests and the local community.” The message will refer to these areas as “occupied territories,” an inaccurate representation of the status of the regions.
“Certain areas affected by conflict may pose a greater risk to travelers, so we provide our customers with information that helps them make decisions and encourage them to check their government’s official travel guidelines as part of the decision-making process,” Booking.com told Ynet.
“Our goal is to make it easier for everyone to experience and travel around the world,” the company said in response. “In accordance with this, we attempt to ensure that our clients have all the information they need in order to make decisions about destinations they are considering traveling to.”
“The marking will appear in other conflict zones in the world,” the company said.
The website does have listings in “Palestinian Territory” but did not say whether they would be posting the warning to Arab-owned businesses or whether their decision only affected Jewish-owned businesses. Until 2018, Booking.com labeled all of Jerusalem as “an “Israeli settlement”.
This move by Bookings.com is similar to a decision in 2018 by Airbnb to stop listing Jewish-owned businesses in Judea and Samaria. They rescinded that decision in 2019.
Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov was highly critical of the decision:
“It is unacceptable for a business company to determine for us what is considered the territory of the State of Israel and what is not,” he tweeted. “From the moment I heard the report that Booking was introducing politics into their activities, I requested to urgently convene the management of the Ministry of Tourism, to determine steps to deal with the illusory decision, and to protect the tourism business in the entire State of Israel.”
Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the decision:
“Booking, you should really read the book; the Bible,” Netanyahu said in a Twitter video. “You know why Judea is called Judea? Because that’s where Jews come from. It’s been our homeland for close to 4,000 years. You should really get a history lesson.”
Netanyahu continued in Hebrew:
“Booking should be ashamed of its ignorance and hypocrisy,” he said. “Judea and Samaria is the heart of our homeland, the heart of all of us, and you [the residents of Judea and Samaria] are in my heart, you are the activists who fight against this abysmal hypocrisy, kudos to you.”
Booking, you should read the Book!
חברת בוקינג צריכה להתבייש בבורות ובצביעות שלה! pic.twitter.com/frptnoBPEV
— Benjamin Netanyahu (@netanyahu) September 19, 2022
Booking.com is a Dutch online travel agency for lodging reservations headquartered in Amsterdam. Founded in 1996, the website has over 28 million listings and is available in 43 languages.
In February 2020, the United Nations published a database of all business enterprises involved in certain specified activities related to the Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria, including East Jerusalem, and in the Golan Heights. Booking.com and its parent company, Booking Holdings, have been listed on the database in light of their involvement in activities related to “the provision of services and utilities supporting the maintenance and existence of settlements”.