An Israeli government minister on Tuesday slammed a new report by Amnesty International, accusing the human-rights group of helping to lead the "anti-Semitic" Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.
The Amnesty International report stated that major companies in the digital travel industry, such as TripAdvisor and Expedia, have been helping the Israeli government boost tourism in “illegal settlements” by taking over land belonging to the Palestinians.
The Amnesty report, titled “Destination: Occupation,” claimed the companies were, by listing rentals and attractions in illegal Jewish settlements, “contributing to human rights violations.”
Israel’s Strategic Affairs and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan tweeted that Amnesty International “has become a leader in the anti-Semitic #BDS campaign. The report it will release tonight on #Israel is an outrageous attempt to distort facts, deny Jewish heritage & delegitimize Israel.”
In a statement to Fox News in response to the tweet, an Amnesty spokesperson said: “Documenting human rights violations by the Israeli government does not equate to antisemitism, a deplorable form of discrimination that is contrary to everything we stand for.”
The statement concluded: “Amnesty International calls out human rights violations wherever we find them in the world, and governments involved often respond by accusing us of bias. We invite the Israeli government to engage with the issues raised in our report, rather than throwing out serious accusations based on the false premise that Amnesty has a disproportionate focus on Israel.”
Amnesty said that only Expedia and Booking.com responded to their requests for comment but neither “addressed our findings or questions directly.” The other two companies, TripAdivsor and Airbnb, had not yet commented.
In the report, Amnesty said its investigators focused on Expedia.com, TripAdvisor, Airbnb and Booking.com since those companies have dominated the travel industry. It claimed that as part of the Israeli government’s promotion of the settlements, it offers financial incentives to businesses that operate there as part of a policy meant to help “sustain and expand them.”
Amnesty accused the Israeli government of having political and ideological reasons for developing the tourism sector in the West Bank. The report stated, “Settler groups supported by the Israeli government emphasize the Jewish people’s historic connections to the region. Israel has constructed many of its settlements close to archaeological sites to make the link between the modern State of Israel and its Jewish history explicit.” It claimed that has led to forced evictions and other such limitations placed on the Palestinians.
Professor Gerald Steinberg, founder and President of NGO Monitor, a research institute that promotes democratic values and good governance, wrote in a statement to Fox News: “Reading even parts of the report one sees the degree to which Amnesty dismisses the Jewish and Christian connection to the Holy Land. They employ terminology that accuses Israel of exploiting these sites for economic purposes, and in essence faults Israel for preserving them, while there is no recognition that the Western Wall and other areas, relegated to a footnote, are part of a two- and three-thousand-year cultural heritage.”
Steinberg continued, “In the foreground of Amnesty's campaign is a long history of anti-Semitism. Amnesty has tolerated blatant anti-Semitism within its own ranks and has treated anti-Semitism as the one form of discrimination not worth fighting against. Unsurprisingly, Amnesty is now fully embracing discriminatory BDS and singling out Israel. The timing is clearly aimed to coincide with the UN's upcoming BDS blacklist.”
Additionally, the Amnesty report said that tourists visiting Israel from abroad enter what it calls the Occupied Palestinian Territories, to visit some of the most popular destinations including the Dead Sea and the City of David.
NGO Watch argued that the report showed how Amnesty was denying Jewish connections to historical sites — and Christian holy sites too. The group noted that Amnesty listed the top three most-visited places by foreign tourists in 2017. The problem, NGO Monitor said: “Only in a footnote do we learn that these are (the) Western Wall, the Jewish Quarter and the Church of the Holy Sepulchre.”
The report focused on five areas where it said the Israel government practices the policies. One of the five place was Hebron. Amnesty stated that TripAdivsor listed a guided tour run by settlers and Airbnb listed a property in a settlement.
Tsofia Nahon, a political advisor who grew up in the Hebron area, told Fox News that the report was wrong and was looking to cause trouble. “As a women that was born and raised in Hebron and lived with Muslims there all my life. It is important for me to say that we will keep fighting against people that are trying to keep this conflict on fire.”
Nahon, who has been running to join the Israeli parliament as a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party, said the report was “based on lies and anti-Semitism and it is our job as free people that believe in human rights and democracy to stand against and stop this fake news.”