Campaigners complain to IGLTA about complicity of Israeli travel agencies
April 3, 2017
Mr. John Tanzella, President
Members of the Board of Directors
International Gay and Lesbian Travel Association (IGLTA)
We are writing to urge you to suspend the membership of five of your member organizations, under the terms of your by-laws, for their violation of IGLTA’s professional code of conduct regarding discrimination and deceptive advertising.
We are specifically referring to the following aspects of IGLTA’s Code of Conduct:
Each member will not discriminate as to sex, race, color, religion, national origin, age, disability status, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
Each member will be responsible at all times for the truthful and non-deceptive advertising or promotion regarding his/her business and its products or services.
Each member will conduct business with strict adherence to the laws and regulations of the state and country where incorporated and in accordance with business or professional codes adhered to within the travel industry.
OUTstanding Travel, Kenes Tours, Ofakim Travel and Congresses ltd., VIP Laufer Aviation Club and Pride Tours are in violation of IGLTA’s code of conduct, as they all promote tourism and economic activity in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Golan Heights, in a way that actively discriminates against Palestinians while marketing their tour locations as taking place in Israel.
The recently passed UN Security Council resolution 2334, which definitively confirms the illegality of all Israeli colonies built in the occupied territory, should remind all corporations, associations and states of their legal, not to mention ethical obligation not to recognize Israeli settlements as legal or to conduct business-as-usual with them, profiting from their illegality.
Israeli settlements are not just illegal under international law; they are considered war crimes, according to the 1998 International Criminal Court Statute, as they are built on stolen land, promote the forcible displacement of Palestinian communities, and transfer population from the occupying state to the occupied territory.
Settlements are a pillar of Israel’s legalized and institutionalized system of racial discrimination. According to the UN Fact Finding Mission on Israel’s settlements, “the legal regime of segregation operating in the occupied Palestinian territory has enabled the establishment and the consolidation of the settlements […] results in daily violations of a multitude of the human rights of the Palestinians in the OPT, including incontrovertibly violating their rights to nondiscrimination, equality before the law and equal protection of the law.”
Settlement businesses, in turn, profit directly from this discrimination and oppression of Palestinians. According to Human Rights Watch, “settlement businesses depend on and benefit from Israel’s unlawful confiscation of Palestinian land and other resources, and facilitate the functioning and growth of settlements. Settlement-related activities also directly benefit from Israel’s discriminatory policies in planning and zoning, the allocation of land, natural resources, financial incentives, and access to utilities and infrastructure. These policies result in the forced displacement of Palestinians and place Palestinians at an enormous disadvantage in comparison with settlers.”
One example is IGLTA member OUTstanding Travel. OUTstanding offers LGBT tourists wine tasting tours in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, boosting the Israeli settlement economy and encouraging the illegal appropriation of natural resources – land and water – from the occupied territory. The result, as detailed by the The Arab Centre for Human Rights in the Golan Heights, is “an extreme example of racial discrimination” against the region’s indigenous Syrian Arab population.
Likewise, OUTstanding Travel has an established partnership with Ahava Cosmetics, an Israeli settlement company named in a United Nations report as a human rights abuser, which profits from the illegal extraction of minerals from the occupied Palestinian West Bank, amounting to pillage, a war crime. All the while Palestinians living under Israeli occupation are denied mere access to the Dead Sea on the basis of national origin.
IGLTA member organisations in Israel promote deceptive advertising by presenting tourism destinations in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in the Golan Heights as “Israel”. This is reflected in the maps they show, which erase the UN demarcation line, the “Green Line,” as well as in the narrative and photos used to present locations in the occupied territories as being in “Israel” when in fact they are not. A blatant example of this deception is the depiction of the Old City of Jerusalem as being part of Israel, in spite of the fact that the Old City is recognized by the UN, including in a recent UNESCO resolution, as an inseparable part of occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem.
The UN has persistently condemned Israel’s military occupation, and no country in the world recognises the occupied territories as part of Israel. This intentional and blatant misrepresentation by IGLTA members in Israel legitimises Israel’s annexation of the settlements and serves the Israeli government’s goal of making permanent its military occupation.
The UK Advertising Standards Agency ruled, in similar instances, that the misrepresentation of locations in the occupied territories as “Israel” are “likely to mislead” and breach “truthfulness guidelines”.
OUTstanding Travel serves as a prime example of the annexation of occupied Palestinian territory. Their itinerary takes tourists to the Old City and to Bethlehem, without ever mentioning these cities are Palestinian. Kenes Tour takes its tourists on a walk through the Old City, obscuring the status of that city.
IGLTA’s Israeli members are key players for the Israeli government’s state sponsored gay tourism campaign. With this campaign the government hopes to attract investments and divert attention from the political context of military violence and occupation. Israel is therefore not a regular gay tourist destination. Since 2010, Palestinian queer organizations have expressed their concerns about Israel’s state sponsored Pinkwashing campaign. To promote Israel as a regular tourist destination for gay people obscures ongoing and well-documented discrimination and human rights violations of Palestinians.
Not only are the aforementioned groups in violation of IGLTA’s code of conduct, but they also violate the Global Code of Ethics for Tourism to which IGLTA must adhere as part of its membership of the UN World Tourism Organization.
The UN World Tourism Organization considers respect for international law and human rights as a condition for membership.The World Committee on Tourism Ethics (WCTE) is tasked with monitoring its members’ implementation of the code of ethics. It also receives complaints regarding breaches of its code of ethics. Organizations found in violation of the code of ethics may have their UN WTO certification revoked. IGLTA’s failure to suspend the mentioned Israeli member organization based on the serious and damning evidence above may compel us to consider this as an option to pursue. But we remain hopeful that this issue will be dealt with within IGLTA’s structures.
While IGLTA’s mission is to “provide information and resources for LGBT travelers and expand LGBT tourism globally by demonstrating its significant social and economic impact,” IGLTA member organisations from Israel do the opposite. In compliance with your code of conduct and bylaws, we hope that you will suspend the aforementioned members, unless they end their false and deceptive advertisements and, more importantly, their business in illegal Israeli settlements which contravenes international law and human rights principles.
We look forward to receiving your response by 18 April 2017, before considering publishing this letter publicly.
al-Qaws for Sexual and Gender Diversity in Palestinian Society
Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)
Pinkwatching Israel – A Global Movement for Queer-Powered BDS
Queer Arabs of Halifax, Canada
Queer Ontario, Canada
Berlin Against Pinkwashing, Germany
MigraBo Lgbti, Italy
MIT (Movimento Identità Trans), Italy
Maruf: Queer Muslims, Netherlands
Panteras Rosa – Frente de Combate à LesBiGayTranfobia, Portugal
Društvo informacijski center Legebitra, Slovenia
ALDARTE asociacion en defensa de la diversidad sexual y de género, Basque Country, Spain
Bloque Andaluz de la Revolucion Sexual, Spain
Femme Sororitat, Spain
No to Pinkwashing, United Kingdom
UNISON National LGBT Committee, United Kingdom
Black and Pink, United States
Familia: Trans Queer Liberation Movement, United States
Gay Liberation Network, United States
Gender Justice LA, United States
Muslim Alliance for Sexual and Gender Diversity, United States
Queers Against Israeli Apartheid – NYC, United States
Queers Against Israeli Apartheid – Seattle, United States
Queers Undermining Israeli Terrorism (QUIT!), United States
Queers Without Borders, United States
Tarab NYC, United States
Arab Resource & Organizing Center, United States
Cátedra Edward Said FFyL Universidad de Buenos Aires, Argentina
BACBI (Belgian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel), Belgium
Le Space, Belgium
Palestina Solidariteit, Belgium
Campanha Global pelo Direito ao Retorno à Palestina – seção Brasil, Brasil
Comitê do Grande ABC/SP de Solidariedade ao Povo Palestino, Brasil
BDS Colombia, Colombia
Internationalt Forum, Denmark
Palæstina Aktion, Denmark
ICAHD Finland, Finland
Campagne BDS France, France
BDS Berlin, Germany
Jüdische Stimme für Gerechten Frieden in Nahost, Germany
Gaza Action Ireland , Ireland
BDS Italia, Italy
Diensten en Onderzoek Centrum Palestina (docP), Netherlands
Euro-Mediterraan Centrum Migratie en Ontwikkeling, Netherlands
Frontier Imaginaries, Netherlands
Stichting Palestijnse Vrouwen in Nederland, Netherlands
The Association of Norwegian NGOs for Palestine, Norway
Gibanje za pravice Palestincev BDS Slovenija, Slovenia
Service Civil International – Catalonia, Catalonia, Spain
Hastings Palestine Solidarity Campaign, United Kingdom
Jewish Socialists’ Group, United Kingdom
UK-Palestine Mental Health Network, United Kingdom
Al-Nakba Awareness Project, United States
Ann Arbor Friends Meeting, United States
Bay Area Chapter of Jewish Voice for Peace, United States
Bay Area Women in Black, United States
Chico Palestine Action Group, United States
CODEPINK, United States
Committee for Palestinian Rights – Howard County, MD, United States
Corvallis Palestine Solidarity, United States
Corvallis-Albany Friends of Middle East Peace, United States
DAYLIGHT | Rule of Law • Access to Justice • Advocacy, United States
Earth Care, United States
Faculty & Staff for Justice in Palestine at the University of Massachusetts Boston, United States
Friends of Sabeel – North America, United States
Hilton Head SC for Peace, United States
Interfaith Peace-Builders (IFPB), United States
Jewish Voice for Peace, United States
Jewish Voice for Peace – Bay Area, United States
Jewish Voice for Peace Atlanta, GA Chapter, United States
Jewish Voice for Peace, Los Angeles, United States
Lutherans for Justice in the Holy Land, United States
Madison-Rafah Sister City Project, United States
MidEast: JustPeace, United States
Palestine Street Action, United States
People of Faith CT, United States
Santa Feans for Justice in Palestine and Israel, United States
Tennessee Campaign for Palestinian Rights, United States
University United Methodist Church, United States
Upper New York United Methodist Task Force on Peace with Justice in Palestine/Israel, United States
US Campaign for Palestinian Rights, United States
US Campaign Northeast, United States
USACBI (US campaign for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel), United States
Utahns for a Just Peace in the Holy Land, United States
Vermonters for Justice in Palestine, United States