Booking.com and the Anti-Semitic Zeitgeist | Opinion

Seemingly apropos of nothing, on September 19 the Amsterdam-based online travel giant Booking.com announced that it intends to place warning labels on lodgings owned by Jews in Judea and Samaria (i.e., the West Bank). According to the company's press release, a statement will be placed next to listings in Israeli communities in those areas saying, "A visit to this area may be accompanied by an increased risk to safety, human rights, and other risks to guests and the local community."

Booking.com announced its plan before it began implementing it, because reportedly the company is having difficulty figuring out how to word its warning. To avoid allegations that it is discriminating against Jews, Booking.com referred to its warning as applying to "the area." But "the area" in question has listings from both Jews and Arabs, and Booking.com only wants to place warning labels on Jewish-owned listings. So Booking.com is delaying implementing its plan until it can figure out how to word a Jews-only boycott without getting sued.

This isn't the first time Booking.com has tried to adopt a corporate policy to discriminate against Israel and Israeli Jews. In 2018, the company changed its designation of Jerusalem from "Israel's capital city" to an "Israeli settlement." The company swiftly reversed course, after a Jewish newspaper in Belgium inquired about the hostile designation.

Booking.com's anti-Israel activism is a little story in and of itself. The company isn't actually boycotting Israel, strictly speaking, as anti-Israel activists demand; it isn't even boycotting Jewish-owned lodgings in Judea and Samaria. It's trying to figure out how to encourage its clients to boycott them by putting a warning label on those listings without getting in legal trouble.

While the story is a small one, it tells a much bigger tale. Because in seeking to single out Israeli Jews for discriminatory treatment, the travel giant is amplifying the policies of the Dutch government and of the European Union, more broadly. Moreover, Booking.com's decision to single out the Jewish state for abuse is in keeping with the general zeitgeist in Europe, and among American progressives today.

Formally, the Netherlands and Israel have good relations. For instance, trade between them has increased more than 4% annually each year since 1995.

But under the surface on the Dutch side, things are much different. Like the EU and its other member states, for decades, the Netherlands has funneled millions of dollars of government funds every year to Israeli- and Palestinian-registered NGOs that exist to carry out various forms of diplomatic, economic, territorial, and, in some cases, terror warfare against Israel. Since nearly their entire budgets are paid for by European taxpayers, these NGOs are European agents whose ultimate and often declared goal is to facilitate Israel's destruction as the world's only Jewish state.

NGOs supported by the Netherlands, for instance, lobby the International Criminal Court to issue arrest warrants, indict, and try Israeli leaders and military personnel. They wage political campaigns directed at governments and the UN to demonize Israel and reject its right to exist. Dutch-funded groups carry out lawfare campaigns to intimidate companies and governments to end their ties with Israel. They carry out intimidation campaigns against Israeli soldiers and police to undermine their efforts to carry out their duties. The sabotage and intimidation efforts focus on interfering with counterterror operations and destroying illegal building projects, often planned and paid for by the EU.

In October 2021, Israel's Ministry of Defense designated six Palestinian NGOs as terror entities affiliated with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Israel, the U.S., and the EU designate the PFLP (which pioneered airline hijackings, among other things) as a terrorist group. One of the organizations, the Union of Agricultural Work Committee (UAWC), had received tens of millions of dollars from the Netherlands over the previous eight years. After an independent Dutch investigation showed that through its funding of the UAWC, the Netherlands had been directly paying the salaries of PFLP terrorists who carried out a 2019 roadside bombing that killed a young woman, Amsterdam announced it was suspending funding. But in July 2022, the Netherlands joined Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Spain, and Sweden in rejecting Israel's designation of the six Palestinian NGOs as terror entities. On the contrary, the European countries announced they would maintain funding for the PFLP front groups.

Israeli soldiers celebrate the arrival of the
Israeli soldiers celebrate the arrival of the new commander at the Israeli side of Cave of the Patriarchs on July 18, 2022 in Hebron. Franco Origlia/Getty Images

Pressured by progressive lawmakers, last month, the CIA similarly refused to accept Israel's findings. In early September, a delegation of Israeli defense and diplomatic officials traveled to Washington to present further evidence of the six groups' affiliation with PFLP to officials in the State Department, CIA, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. To date, the Biden administration maintains its refusal to accept Israel's findings.

As for the zeitgeist, repeated surveys of public opinion show Europeans are largely hostile to Israel. For instance, a 2019 survey of European opinion by Bertelsman Stiftung Foundation found that whereas 61% of Israelis were positively disposed toward Europeans, a mere 20% of Europeans held positive opinions of Israel.

Regarding the Netherlands specifically, a 2018 study carried out by Israel's left-leaning Institute for National Security Studies showed that the Dutch media collectively cover Israel in a manner that delegitimizes Israel's existence and dehumanizes Israeli Jews. A popular Dutch media tactic for demonizing Israel is to claim that Israel cannot be a democracy, since during the period under review, the Knesset was debating a bill aimed at curbing the hostile activities of Dutch-funded anti-Israel NGOs.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MN) spoke to the now-rising anti-Israel, and increasingly outright anti-Jewish zeitgeist in progressive America on September 20. In remarks to an online forum hosted by a pro-Palestinian group, Tlaib said, "Among progressives, it has become clear that you cannot claim to hold progressive values, yet back Israel's apartheid government." She added, "We will not accept this idea that you are progressive, except for Palestine, any longer."

Tlaib's call for pro-Israel Americans to be shunned by progressives was roundly condemned by a handful of predominantly but not exclusively Jewish Democratic lawmakers, who rightly characterized her statement, and Tlaib herself, as anti-Semitic. On the other hand, there were several other lawmakers who participated in the online conference with Tlaib—and none expressed any qualms about her remarks. Moreover, President Biden, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and the rest of the Biden administration and Democratic congressional leadership felt no need to condemn Tlaib. To the contrary, they have embraced Tlaib. When Tlaib condemned U.S. support for Israel during last year's Hamas missile offensive against the Jewish state, Biden gushed over Tlaib; he expressed his "admiration" for the anti-Semitic lawmaker, applauded her "passion" and "intellect," and called her a "fighter."

When seen in the broader context of Europe's political war against Israel and the dominant anti-Israel and anti-Jewish zeitgeist in Europe and progressive America, Booking.com's action cannot be dismissed as the mere bloviation of overpaid, woke corporate executives. Instead, it must be seen as a sign of what is already happening, and a warning of an even worse situation that perhaps awaits us, as anti-Semitism again becomes the condition for entry into high society in Europe and America.

Caroline B. Glick is a Newsweek columnist, the senior contributing editor of Jewish News Syndicate, and the diplomatic commentator for Israel's Channel 14. She is also the author of The Israeli Solution: A One-State Plan for Peace in the Middle East, (Crown Forum, 2014). From 1994 to 1996, she served as a core member of Israel's negotiating team with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.