Israel's tourism industry rings alarm over new government

Many hotel and tourism firms nationwide reaffirm their commitment to discrimination-free practices after far-right coalition lawmakers ignite a firestorm with a proposal to allow business owners to deny services based on religious convictions

Iris Lifshitz-Klieger|
Israel's tourism industry on Tuesday sounded alarm over the incoming coalition government and its extreme far-right rhetoric.
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  • Industry officials nationwide have publicly come out against discriminatory legislative proposals floated by incoming coalition partners, who are promoting a bill that would allow businesses to refuse services to customers if it contradicts their religious beliefs.
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    תל אביב
    תל אביב
    Tel Aviv coast line
    (Photo: Shutterstock)
    Gulliver Tourism announced Monday they will refrain from doing business with private or public entities that practice discriminatory policies.
    Gulliver CEO Ziv Rosen said: "Apparently even in 2023 it's important to declare that discrimination is wrong. Gulliver will not engage with anyone who discriminates based on race, religion, gender or sexual orientation. We support the LGBTQ community, they deserve nothing but complete equality in this country."
    Yossi Patael, CEO of the Incoming Tour Operators Association, told Ynet that "regardless of legislative proposals, the fact that we're even having this discussion in the first place presents Israel in a highly negative light for tourists who were considering coming here. Our global image represents a vital component of our national fortitude, and this discussion compromises our appeal for tourists worldwide.
    "Talking about customer service discrimination for domestic or international tourists cannot be materialized in our day-to-day operations. Not a single hotel owner in this country, whether Arab, Haredi, Bedouin, Secular, Muslim or Christian, will ever follow Rothman's and Strook's far-fetched notions.
    "It's unclear what those Knesset members were even thinking when they came up with this garbage. When was the last time any MK wanted to stay in a hotel anywhere in the world where they asked him for their sexual orientation? The new government should really do all they can to conceal these extremists from the world."
    Avi Nissenkorn, president of the Israel Hotels Association, also released a statement condemning the proposals. "Hotels answer to the population that wishes to stay in their rooms or use their services. We will never discriminate against anyone based on religion, creed, gender or sexual orientation."
    Aviation Links, an Israeli tourism outlet, said they are "committed to serve everyone, regardless of religion, creed, gender, nationality, sexual orientation or any other differentiating factor. Equality is paramount and discrimination will not be tolerated."
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    מצעד הגאווה בתל אביב
    Tel Aviv Pride Parade
    (Photo: Yair Sagi)
    Dan Hotels Israel said in a statement they oppose all discrimination in Israeli society and that everyone is always welcome.
    Hotel conglomerates - Africa Israel, The Brown Hotels, Issta and Crowne Plaza Israel - have all released statements, expressing their displeasure of the proposal, and have all committed to continue serving anyone who wishes to use their services.
    Tourism Minister Yoel Razvozov has written a letter to all Israeli hotel owners in wake of the crisis. "The principle of equality supersedes all discriminatory proposals that may or may not be discussed. One case of discrimination can undermine all Israeli tourism and effect the income of hundreds of thousands of Israeli families.
    "Once this law takes effect, tourist revenue from liberal countries around the world will plummet. International media will pick up on it and word about how discriminatory Israel is will spread like wildfire, making it next to impossible to return to pre-pandemic tourism figures."
    The political storm was set off when a proposed provision to the laws of discrimination stipulated that a business owner is allowed to deny service on religious grounds if an alternative can be found close by at a similar price point.
    The apprehension caused by the provision seems to have merit, based on two recent interviews with coalition hawks - MKs Orit Strook and Simcha Rothman.
    Strook of the Religious Zionist party, said: "As long as there are other doctors that can provide a service, a doctor cannot be required to provide care that stands in contrast to his religious viewpoint."
    Rothman said that theoretically, a religious hotel owner can choose not to, for instance, accommodate gay customers.
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    אורית סטרוק, שמחה רוטמן
    אורית סטרוק, שמחה רוטמן
    Simcha Rothman; Orit Strook
    (Photo: Knesset spokesperson, Motti Kimhi)
    "Let's make it simple. Freedom means people can do things I disapprove of. Freedom of expression means you can say bad things about Arabs, religious people or gays. Freedom of occupation means a business owner to deny service or say bad things to his customers and suffer the consequences accordingly. That's freedom. Shocking, isn't it?" Rothman said.
    Prime Minister-designate, Benjamin Netanyahu, said he disapproves of what Strook and Rothman have proposed.
    Israel Discount Bank was the first major financial entity in the country that publicly came out against the proposed amendment by updating their credit policy. Thee bank said that credit will be denied to any business or entity that discriminates against clients based on religion, creed, gender or sexual orientation. However, they have declined to elaborate on how they will follow through.
    Cloud security high-tech company Wiz have also announced they will never discriminate anyone and will not engage with others who do. Insurance giants AIG have made a similar announcement.

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