Thursday, June 13, 2024

Booking.com faces criminal complaint for money laundering from illegal Israeli settlements

Booking.com, the online travel giant, is facing a criminal complaint filed by human rights organizations, accusing the company of profiting from and laundering proceeds linked to Israeli war crimes in occupied Palestinian territories.

A coalition of Dutch and Palestinian organizations, including the European Legal Support Center (ELSC), Al-Haq, SOMO, and The Rights Forum, have filed a criminal complaint with the Dutch Public Prosecution Service, alleging that Booking.com’s operates in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories (OPT) which constitutes to money laundering under Dutch law.

The complaint asserts that by facilitating the rental of vacation homes built on land stolen from Palestinians, Booking.com is profiting from war crimes and violations of international humanitarian law. According to the organizations, this conduct violates Article 1 (4) of the Dutch International Crimes Act (Wet Internationale Misdrijven), which prohibits profiting from the commission of war crimes.

The criminal complaint comes amid an escalating humanitarian crisis in the occupied Palestinian territories, where Israel has established over 279 illegal settlements housing nearly 700,000 settlers in the occupied West Bank alone. These settlements, considered war crimes under international law, have resulted in the forced displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes and lands. According to UN figures, over 6 million Palestinians have been displaced by settlement construction and expansion since 1967. The appropriation of Palestinian territory enables the settlements and amounts to a de facto annexation, denying Palestinians their inalienable right to self-determination.

The co-filers aim to hold Booking.com accountable for its involvement in international crimes and end the climate of corporate impunity surrounding profiting from illegal Israeli settlements. They assert that Booking.com’s actions contribute to normalizing war crimes, crimes against humanity, and the systematic deprivation of Palestinian rights.

Booking.com’s response and ongoing controversy

Booking.com has refuted the allegations, stating that it “wholeheartedly disagree[s]” with the claims of illegal activity. The company argues that there are no laws prohibiting listings in Israeli settlements and suggests that U.S. laws would prevent them from divesting from the settlements.

The controversy surrounding Booking.com’s operations in the OPT has been ongoing, with human rights groups and activists urging the company to cease its involvement in the illegal settlements. According to experts, the criminal complaint represents a significant escalation in efforts to hold the company accountable for its actions.

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