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How Lonely Planet and Airbnb are burnishing Israeli occupation

Image of a poster condemning Airbnb listing in illegal settlements in occupied Palestine.
Image of a poster condemning Airbnb listing in illegal settlements in occupied Palestine [file photo]

Three of the world’s most famous travel websites are treating the illegally occupied Golan Heights as if it were genuinely a part of Israel, research by a Syrian human rights group has found.

The Golan Heights is a sector of Syria which was invaded by Israel in 1967 and has been colonised in violation of international law ever since.

Israel’s annexation of the territory in 1981 was condemned by the UN at the time. Security Council Resolution 497 stated that

the Israeli decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration in the occupied Syrian Golan Heights is null and void and without international legal effect.

According to Al-Marsad, a Golan-Heights-based Arab human rights group, Booking.com, Airbnb and Lonely Planet all present the occupied territory as part of “Israel” and promote accommodation and tourism in Israeli colonies there.

Read: Israel approves 10,000 settlement units in Jerusalem

All Israeli settlements are in fact illegal under international law.

In the case of Lonely Planet, the company makes it clear in its information on the West Bank that the territory is occupied by Israel. As Al-Marsad puts it, this “calls into question why it treats the Golan differently”.

Booking.com and Airbnb both list places for tourists to stay on their websites which are in Israeli colonies in the Golan Heights. Neither website tells visitors that these places are located in settlements classified as illegal under international law.

Al-Marsad contacted both Booking.com and Lonely Planet to express its concerns. While Booking.com failed to reply at all, Lonely Planet gave a wholly unsatisfactory answer claiming that it had provided “relevant information in the introduction to the Golan Heights section”. This is simply not good enough.

Read: Arab Bank settlement over attacks may hit snag in US appeals court

Under the fourth Geneva Convention, Israel’s transference of its civilian population into the territory of another people – occupied in the course of a war – is a war crime. Colonialism is never a victimless crime.

While decades of Palestinian campaigning and struggle has led to the status of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza being better understood in the West, understanding on the issue of the occupied Golan Heights still lags.

Israel occupied the Golan during the same 1967 war of aggression which led to its illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. It managed to steal two-thirds of the Golan, and immediately kicked out 95 per cent of the native Syrian population – some 130,000 refugees. Some 340 Syrian villages were then razed to the ground by the Israeli invaders.

This injustice must be reversed, and the rightful inhabitants permitted to return.

The border between Israeli occupied Golan Heights and Syria [Eviatar Bach/Wikipedia]

The border between Israeli occupied Golan Heights and Syria [Eviatar Bach/Wikipedia]

Today, around 25,000 Syrians remain in the Golan, but they are dominated by 23,000 Israeli settlers. According to Al-Marsad, the Syrians live in “five severely overcrowded villages located in the extreme north of the Golan” and control just five per cent of the land, while the Israeli settlers control 95 per cent of it.

Racist Israeli policy means they are not allowed to expand their villages according to their normal population needs. A very similar situation under which Palestinians in both the West Bank and even inside present-day Israel live.

Tourism has been a major boon to the colonial Israeli economy in the Golan: an injustice that companies like Airbnb, Booking.com and Lonely Planet are now helping to sustain.

As Al-Marsad outlines:

Lonely Planet kindly warns potential visitors that accommodation ‘prices rise in winter because of heating costs’. However, it fails to mention that Neve Ativ is an illegal Israeli settlement built on the ruins of Syrian village, Jubata Al-Zeit. Jubata Al-Zeit was demolished by the Israeli authorities to develop a ski resort following the occupation of the Golan.

It is a modern day obscenity that this is viewed as an attractive tourist venue. This must not be allowed to stand. Just as the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian West Bank and Gaza Strip is opposed the world over, so too must be the Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan Heights.

These occupations all must end and the land returned to its rightful inhabitants. Israel must be compelled to end its colonial and racist policies, with full equal rights being given to all.

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  • Mike Abramov

    ‘Israel occupied the Golan during the same 1967 war of aggression which ‘……

    There he goes again. Six countries declared war on Israel in 1967 and Israel is the aggressor? The Golan Heights is a highly strategic look-out point for Israel. Typically the threat from Daesh, the threat from Hezbollah and of course the threats from Syria.

    Syria, by-the-way, is the neighbouring country where 500,000 have died in the last six years due to an on-going civil war to oust a ‘questionable’ president. Asa Winstanley has an amazing knack of ignoring the mass murder in Syria while focusing on holidays in the Golan Heights.

    • Helen4Yemen

      What threat from Daesh? Daesh only kills Muslims and Christians but never touches Jews. Is 2 + 2 still = 4?

      This entity is a colonial settler state like the French in Algeria and the British in Kenya. Snow white Ashkenazi does understand that he is totally out of place in that area. He is European and he belongs in Europe.

      • Mike Abramov

        I cannot believe how naive you are. Daesh are seeking a caliphate. If Daesh are happy to murder the Yazidi Christians of Iraq, the only reason they have not murdered Jews is because they are too scared to take on Israel.

        • Jack

          The fatwa given by Taqi al-Din Ibn Taymiyya (1263-1328) is saying Muslims can kill Muslims under certain conditions……..
          Muslim killing Muslim all over the ME is a fact, Helen4Yemen admires and supports the Houthi Yemenite Muslims who slaughter those days thousands of innocent Muslim Civilians children and women, she admires mass killers Assad who slaughter thousands of his own nation…..
          but she has an Issue with the Jews, what a Hypocrite !

          • Mike Abramov

            Jack – Helen4Yemen is one of the strangest people I have ever had a dialogue with. Her obsession with racial identity is quite disturbing and her constant reference to Ashkenazi Jews not being ‘real Jews’ is a Nazi ideology of proving racial purity. I frankly feel she needs help.

          • Jack

            a dialogue ???
            She never reads any comment, she just pasts her reused hate racist commitments over and over again.

          • Mike Abramov

            Well, dialogue as in…I have managed to rile her resulting in an angry response.

          • Jack

            Those are the Palestinian apologist and supporters, a bunch of racist Haters.

          • betz55

            Poor mike and jack – the only people needing help are the two of you israel firsters and apologists. Isn’t it funny how peace in the middle east wasn’t an issue until the Ashkenazi expelled the Palestinian from his land and came to the middle east.

            It is not your ideology which makes you so stupid. It is your chaotic reasoning that your “friends” are allowed to lay waste to every international law and convention without criticism and your “enemies” are not entitled to raise a hand in their own defense.

            You people are just so stupid, you would think you would have learned from the Nazi’s but you are so blinded by your ignorance that you perpetuate what was done to you to the Palestinians. You have learned nothing. Dumb and dumber. israel has had 60 years to resolve its differences, and the group with the self-proclaimed highest IQs in the world can’t figure it out? The Vietnamese did better than this.

            There’s no warped mind bigger than the you and your ilk and the illegal settler squats fanatic messianic mind set which has nothing to do with the ingrained culture and atmosphere of hatred and oppression towards the Palestinians. israel – diabolical, disgusting and morally reprehensible.

          • Jack

            betz55 what will your “students” think about their claimed teacher, who uses vulgar and abusive words…… even your camel is embarrassed….
            it want help you, reality is we are blooming, while you are killing each other and always blame someone else.
            wonder how come your comrade helen4yemen, did not spew her DNA intellectual research yet.
            You should take this research to your UCSC Board of Trustees…. I am sure they will grant you with extra courses regarding this high level of racist research.

            .

          • betz55

            Uh-huh. That all you got? Israeli is becoming a parody of right-wing lunacy: the last refuge of discredited neoconservatives, supply-siders, extremists, and desperate hasbara like you jackieboy.

            If your loyalties lie with Israel, you’re free to leave the States; just surrender your US citizenship at the border. No man can serve two masters.

            You align yourself with garbage and you end up being garbage.

          • Jack

            betz55 – well well well , the intellectual teacher tells me what to do…….
            so you want most of the Jews out, and if not, you are going to chop their heads as your Muslim brothers…..??
            but wait a minute, you don’t want them in Israel either…….what about your DNA research, they are going to come to Israel…… is that what you want???…… more Jews in Israel, I thought you want them out of Israel teacher….
            confused, I thought you are a smarter teacher.

          • betz55

            Poor jackieboy – copy and paste – can’t get past the houthis blah blah blah. Daesh did not exist until Bush 43 idiot.

            Isis was a creature born of the Bush-Blair invasion of Iraq. Isis was the direct result of our brutal occupation of Iraq. The blood-curdling activities of Isis are the responsibility of those two deeply Christian gentlemen who decided to illegally invade another sovereign state under false pretences and whose criminal adventure led to the deaths of up to half a million Iraqis – weirdly enough, the same death toll now being credited to Assad by his most ferocious enemies.

            Like our own actions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon, etc. and our unending, blinding, sycophantic support of apartheid Israel has nothing to do with what happens to us. We’re morally vacant, and opportunistically so. It all goes hand in hand.

            Israel has painted themselves into a corner, surrounded by states that loathe them. Their hubris, arrogance and sense of entitlement based on the ridiculous credo of “chosen people”, has left them discredited, unmasked, de-legitimized, scorned, reduced to a diplomatic dwarf, maniacally messianic fanatics, laughed at and alienated from the rest of the international community. That will be their legacy.

          • Jack

            The intellectual claimed teacher is losing his temper…. want help you cursing, as reality is the Muslim kill Muslim all over, Yemen,Syria,Afghanistan,Iraq,Pakistan,Egypt….
            you can as always blame the west, but the killers are Muslims, part of you religion culture to kill one another.

          • betz55

            yea, yea, yea, blah, blah, blah. See below. Oh wait, I’ll copy and paste. Uh-huh. That all you got? Israeli is becoming a parody of right-wing lunacy: the last refuge of discredited neoconservatives, supply-siders, extremists, and desperate hasbara like you jackieboy.

            If your loyalties lie with Israel, you’re free to leave the States; just surrender your US citizenship at the border. No man can serve two masters.

            You align yourself with garbage and you end up being garbage.

          • Jack

            ” Israeli is becoming a parody of right-wing lunacy:
            “If your loyalties lie with Israel, you’re free to leave the States; just surrender your US citizenship at the border. No man can serve two masters.
            You align yourself with garbage and you end up being garbage.”

            Teacher you wrote it a minute ago already….. don’t paste the same wordings, be original and creative, this is what you should teach us……”.
            I see that every comment of your is prepared, learn to use the keyboard at UCSC, or should I register you to a course ???? ……..

          • betz55

            jackieboy, again, You’re not comprehending – you have proven the point beautifully. No one hates like a rabid, messianic, racist jew. But well done, the Palestinians send their thanks and ask that you keep up the good work. Thanks !

          • Jack

            betz55 – I am just having fun to find out again and again, that those who speak in the name of the Palestinians, are so desperate to invent any research as this Helen4yemen intellectual DNA and rewrite any imaginary issue or event, creating a past for themselves.

    • Helen4Yemen

      The Iraq war and ‘Greater Israel

      Here is from Ari Shavit – Haaretz – March 4, 2003

      “In the course of the past year, a new belief has emerged in the town: the belief in war against Iraq. That ardent faith was disseminated by a small group of 25 or 30 neoconservatives, almost all of them JEWISH, almost all of them intellectuals people who are mutual friends and cultivate one another and are convinced that political ideas are a major driving force of history
      a partial list:

      Richard Perle,
      Paul Wolfowitz,
      Douglas Feith,
      William Kristol,
      Eliot Abrams,
      Charles Krauthammer”

      • Jack

        The Greater Pan-Syrian
        The government of Hafiz al-Asad adopted Pan-Syrian ideas and made them Syrian state policy.
        Greater Syrian nation “Syria” referred to a region much larger than the Syrian Arab Republic of today, a region that stretched from the borders of Anatolia to those of Egypt, from the edge of Iraq to the Mediterranean Sea. In terms of today’s states, the Syria of old comprised Syria, Lebanon, Israel, and Jordan, plus the Gaza Strip and Alexandretta.
        The government of Hafiz al-Asad adopted Pan-Syrian ideas and made them Syrian state policy.

      • Mike Abramov

        …..and your point is?

        • Helen4Yemen

          The point is staring you in the face – that it is these foreign people on Palestinian lands who are the driving forces behind all the conflicts in the Middle East.

          • Mike Abramov

            Interesting. So, what you are saying is that before the Ashkenazim arrived in the ME, everything was wonderful. All the different Arab tribes lived side-by-side. The Shiites and the Sunnis were great friends. The Alawite Syrian rulers were revered by the majority Sunni population etc; etc; etc;

            Therefore, in your own words, the Arabs are blaming the white Ashkenazim for all the problems in the ME. This, my dear Helen, is rubbish. You are looking for a scapegoat and as usual, it is the Jews.

            Nothing has changed in the last 1,500 years.

    • betz55

      Israel doesn’t want peace, they want land. The representatives of the Jewish immigrants in Palestine “agreed” to a partition of Palestine only because they knew the Palestinians would not agree to give up half of their own country… and that no Palestinian state would be established, because as soon as the proposal was formally rejected (December 1947), the Jewish militias began an offensive that had already overwhelmed 3/4 of the country, and put hundreds of thousands of Palestinians to flight from their homes and villages, by April of 1948.

      In 1967, Israel launched another war of aggression, and seized the rest of Palestine, which it has held under occupation, and has been co-opting piece by piece with settlements, walls, roads, etc, ever since. Israel has been in total control of all of Palestine for over 40 years; if Israel ever meant to permit a Palestinian State to exist, it would have done so by now. Actions speak louder than words.

      Zionism is the ethnic cleansing of all Palestinians from ‘Jewish’ land. You’re a hypocrite and not very good one at that.

  • ricck lineheart

    Without the funding from the American taxpayer Israel as we know it today would not exist . Every J$w in America should kiss every American a$$ to show their appreciation instead of hiding behind Dual Citizenship status and claiming to be Gods Chosen .

  • betz55

    Paint this hideous situation however you will, but to anyone with a conscience, it is apartheid and anyone utilizing these websites to stay in occupied Palestine are complicit. BOYCOTT, BOYCOTT, BOYCOTT.