Airbnb Sides With Pro-Palestinian Activists, Erases Jewish Listings From West Bank

Clay Curtis
November 20, 2018

Human Rights Watch says it has been urging Airbnb to leave the controversial region for two years. Moreover, Airbnb still allows for listings in other disputed territories, including some where inhabitants have been subjected to ethnic cleansing.

At the time, Airbnb did not respond to the criticism, instead issuing a short statement vowing "we follow laws and regulations on where we can do business and investigate concerns raised about specific listings".

Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, welcomed Airbnb's decision.

Airbnb's Monday press release can be found at this link.

Settlements have always been seen as a critical barrier to a peace deal, which the worldwide community broadly agrees should be two states side by side, one for Israelis and one for Palestinians.

"US law permits companies like Airbnb to engage in business in these territories", the company said in a statement.

"We concluded that we should remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians", the company said in a statement on its website Monday.

Now that Airbnb, a company valued at $31 billion in 2017, has chose to ban rentals in the area, Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan has called on former hosts on the platform to sue the company in accordance with the country's laws banning boycotts.

Despite Palestinian attempts to resolve the matter through peaceful negotiations, the last round of Israeli-Palestinian talks collapsed in 2014, with Israel continuing to push for the expansion of the illegal West Bank communities.

A road sign points towards an airbnb apartment located in the Esh Kodesh outpost near the Jewish settlement of Shilo and the Palestinian village of Qusra in the occupied West Bank
A road sign points towards an Airbnb apartment located in the Esh Kodesh outpost on the occupied West Bank

"Our long history of working for a just peace in Palestine and Israel has opened our eyes to the many injustices and violations of worldwide law arising from the military occupation of Palestine by the Israeli government", said Paul Parker, an official for Quakers in Britain.

"The Israeli settlement-industrial complex is the crux of the illegal colonization of Palestine and constitutes a grave breach of worldwide law, specifically the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Rome Statute of the global Criminal Court", PLO Secretary General Dr. Saeb Erekat wrote at the time.

Referring to the West Bank by its biblical names, Levin said he had also instructed his ministry to promote a program to encourage tourism and accommodation in vacation apartments throughout Judea and Samaria.

"Companies like Booking.com should follow suit", he wrote on Twitter.

Settler leaders called Airbnb's decision anti-Semitic.

Approximately 600,000 Israelis lived in more than 200 settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem at the end of 2016, Israeli human rights group Btselem reported.

Erdan said Airbnb "will have to explain why it is taking this discriminatory and racist line here in particular and not in other conflict zones in the world".

Greenhow said the Quakers are waiting for the publication of a United Nations report that lists companies involved in settlement-related activity.

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