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February 4, 2019 8:04 am

Amnesty International’s Travel Boycott of Israel: Unpacking the Baggage

avatar by Emanuel Miller

Opinion

A pro-BDS demonstration. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Amnesty International has launched a new campaign against Israel, taking to the media to call for a travel industry boycott of Jewish homes and businesses in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Amnesty’s attack includes a petty, sniping op-ed in The Independent by Kate Allen, the director of Amnesty International UK, specifically calling out the online travel sites TripAdvisor, Booking.com, and Expedia.

As would be expected, it’s a hostile screed with excessive baggage that needs unpacking.

Allen’s piece focuses on the Jewish communities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, which she describes in no uncertain terms:

The settlements are the source of half a century of systematic injustice, discrimination and other human rights violations perpetrated by the state of Israel and settlers against the Palestinian people.

While the West Bank’s status is a complex issue, describing Jewish communities on this land as the “source” of human rights abuses implies that the Israeli-Arab conflict began with the Six-Day War of 1967. This is patently untrue. Amnesty and Allen may not want to admit it, but the conflict significantly predates 1967, well before charges of “illegal occupation” were ever leveled at Israel.

Indeed, terror attacks launched from the Jordanian-controlled West Bank in 1950s and ’60s weren’t about settlements — they were about Israel’s right to exist in any borders.

Consider too how Amnesty is so upset by claims of Israeli occupation, and yet has never sought to pressure these travel sites to enact a travel boycott and de-list homes and attractions in disputed territories like Western Sahara, Crimea, Northern Cyprus, or Gibraltar, to name a few. Why the obsession with Israel?

Beyond this general fixation with criticizing Israel, there is also the false claim of “settler-only roads” existing in the West Bank.

Many of the settlements are serviced by settler-only roads and guarded by a network of Israeli military checkpoints and other security infrastructure.

Not quite.

In reality, there are certain roads in the West Bank that are off-limits to Israeli citizens, and there are other roads that are off-limits to Palestinian citizens. While there are no Jewish citizens of the Palestinian Authority, there are around two million Israeli Arabs who can — and do — drive on the so-called “settler-only” roads.” There are no roads exclusively for settlers or Jews — not now, not ever. This is true of all land under Israeli control. The vast majority of roads in the West Bank are shared by Palestinian and Israeli drivers. It’s a common sight to see cars with yellow (Israeli) license plates driving alongside cars with white or green (Palestinian) license plates.

Although Amnesty claims that it’s not an advocate of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, its disproportionate focus on Israel makes it a fellow traveler of BDS. If  tourism in disputed territory is indeed a sin, shouldn’t TripAdvisor and Expedia drop other disputed territories? Targeting Israel, and Israel alone, sends out the message that Israel is uniquely deserving of unparalleled criticism. Repeatedly attacking Israel, as Amnesty does, while doing much less about true human rights abuses reveals the same mentality as that of BDS supporters — one that regards Israel as a country that must be isolated and attacked, instead of carefully working with Israelis and Palestinians to build a better future for all concerned.

By resorting to media agitprop, Amnesty International only makes an already difficult conflict all the more intractable.

Emanuel Miller is a writer for HonestReporting.

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