Since March 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the development of tourism globally. Consequently, the question on how sustainable tourism can positively affect host communities, including rural and indigenous people, by creating economic stability and protecting their environment and natural resources is more valid now than ever.
The UNWTO Secretary General recalls on World Tourism Day in 2020:
As we mark the 75 years of the United Nations, it is time to really fulfil tourism’s massive potential, including its unique ability to drive development for rural communities, backing up our pledge to leave nobody behind.
Al-Haq reminds that in order to advance the efforts towards tourism that benefit all, the international community must recognise its responsibility for adverse human rights impacts and recognise the local context such as the prolonged occupation, and discriminatory practices and policies amounting to the crime of apartheid[i] against Palestinian people. Amid pandemic, Palestinians face discriminatory practices and policies, inlcuding access restrictions, erosion of livelihoods, settlement expansion and violence, leading to direct and indirect forced displacement of Palestinians by the Israeli Occupying Forces (IOF). Additionally, long-lasting Israeli restrictions on trade, movement and access continue to constrain Palestinian economic development.[ii] All access points to the ‘Holy Land’ both in historic Palestine and the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), are currently placed under Israeli effective control, the latter through the illegal application of its 1952, Entry into Israel Law.
Palestinian natural and cultural resources assigned mainly as tourism destinations by Israel, have been unlawfully appropriated by the IOF, harming local and rural populations who depend on the very same resources as a source of livelihood.[iii] The Palestinian host community, who would use these natural or cultural/historic resources as a basis for their livelihood, are detrimentally affected by the decisions and actions of the tourism industry. While the expansion of Israel’s unlawful settlement enterprise in the OPT results in the fragmentation of territory under Palestinian control, and denial of the Palestinian right to self-determination and permenant sovereignty, undermines any significant development of the Palestinian tourism industry and respect for international law.
Al-Haq urges the international community and tourism stakeholders to recognise the complex reality in the tourism destinations under Israel’s military control, where tourism is thriving but not for the Palestinian host community. Tourism that supports achieving Sustainable Development Goals in the occupied territory requires human rights enhanced due diligence by the tour operators and a full disclosure about the status of the land or places visited. A context-sensitive risk analysis must include recognition of the host population as well as salient human rights issues and impacts on their livelihood.[iv]
The impacts can be both positive and negative; a company must identify the salient human rights issues for its business activities in addition to the usual risk analysis, and to focus on the avoidance of harm to human rights rather than unrelated initiatives to support or promote human rights[v].
Third States and companies conducting business activities in conflict-affected areas have a responsibility to respect international law and protect against adverse human rights impacts in conflict affected areas as outlined in the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP).[vi]
Accordingly Al-Haq recommended that Third States:
- Support the Office of the United Nations (UN) High Commission for Human Rights in its annual updates of the UN Database on Business Operating in Israeli Settlements[vii], as an important accountability tool to ensure a higher degree of transparency on the corporate complicity of tourism companies aiding and abetting the settlement economy in Israeli touristic settlements in the OPT.
- To provide for sustainable tourism, it is essential to prohibit Israeli tourism services in the illegal settlements in the OPT (including Jerusalem).
- Stop enabling promotion of tourism in unlawful Israeli settlements via Israeli marketing and promotion tourism channels in your country.
- Call to lift the 13-year closure imposed on Gaza, which has diminished sources of livelihood for almost 2 million Palestinians in the Strip as well any tourism development.
In addition, it has issued recommendations for Tourism Businesses to:
- Inform customers on the status of the destinations in line with the internationally recognised status of the State of Palestine, which includes the OPT.
- Conduct Enhanced Human Rights Due Diligence as a part of the risk analysis for business activities in OPT, ensuring the differentiation in business activities for the benefit of the illegal settlement enterprise and business activities for the benefit of the occupied Palestinian population.
- Ensure the consent of the local Palestinian population and their political representatives for the use of their land and natural resources for tourism.
- End all business activities which contributes to the continuation of Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise, recognised as unlawful under UN Security Council Resolution 2334 (2016) and which may amount to aiding and abetting the commission of the continuing war crimes of land appropriation, displacement and forcible transfer of the host Palestinian population.
More detailed analysis on Question of Sustainable tourism in Palestine comes soon with the forthcoming report by Al-Haq.