Palestine to sue Amazon over discriminatory delivery policy

The e-commerce company is offering free delivery to Israeli customers in the illegal settlements, while charging Palestinians in the same area USD 24 or more, unless they select Israel as their country of location

February 19, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Amazon delivery Israel
Image: Financial Times

Palestine’s economy ministry has said that it will sue international e-commerce giant Amazon following revelations that it has been offering free shipping to Israeli customers in the occupied West Bank and in the illegal Israeli Jewish settlements while charging Palestinians for handling and delivery. Amazon has been offering the free delivery to Israeli customers on orders worth over USD 49. At the same time, it has been charging Palestinians handling and delivery charges upwards of USD 24, an investigation by the Financial Times published on February 14 found. To avail the free delivery promotion, Palestinians must select ‘Israel’ as their country, instead of ‘Palestinian territories’, forcing them to extend indirect recognition to their colonizer and occupier.

Amazon started selling its international products in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories since November last year and has been offering a free delivery promotional offer since then. Responding to the revelation, Amazon spokesperson, Nick Caplin, attributed the discrepancy to a “logistical issue”, insisting that it was not a “sign of any other consideration,” according to Middle East Eye. He said that the reason the occupied Palestinian territories were not included in the offer was because Amazon would be unable to “guarantee the high standard of delivery experience that Amazon customers expect”. This is mainly due to a labyrinth of Israeli checkpoints and border customs and inspections barriers in between the illegal settlements and Palestinian West Bank villages and towns, as well as on the borders between the occupied West Bank and Israel.

The news of this separate, discriminatory delivery policy for Israelis and Palestinians based on what they select as their country of location has been widely condemned by human rights organizations and activists. Palestinian lawyer-activist and former Palestine Liberation Organisation legal adviser Diana Buttu told the Financial Times that Amazon’s policy was tantamount to “allowing the settlement activity to be viewed as legal when it’s not.” She added that, “The issue is just how normalized the settlements have become, not just in Israeli eyes, but in international eyes, and that’s the problem, it’s that unless you begin to treat them as illegal, then it becomes so natural for them to become normalized.”

Granate Kim, communications director for Jewish Voice for Peace, told Middle East Eye, “I’m outraged yet unsurprised to hear that Amazon is discriminating against Palestinians like this. Amazon is essentially incentivizing Palestinians to choose ‘Israel’ as their address to get a free shipping deal. Corporations like Amazon need to be held accountable for such abhorrent practices and we’re talking with partners now to see how to do that.”

Israeli human rights lawyer Michael Sfard accused Israel of blatant discrimination on the basis of nationality.

Last week, the United Nations Human Rights Office published a list of 112 companies which were blacklisted for doing business with the illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in violation of international law. Amazon was not named in that list. Well known multinational companies such as Airbnb, Tripadvisor, Expedia, Motorola and were among those accused of engaging in and profiting from business activity in the illegal settlements.