Palestinians welcome Airbnb settlement ban as Israel fumes

Lester Mason
November 20, 2018

Home-renting company Airbnb Inc said on Monday that it had made a decision to remove its listings in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, enclaves that most world powers consider illegal for taking up land where Palestinians seek statehood. Its settlements there are considered illegal by most world powers.

A statement from the company said: "US law permits companies like Airbnb to engage in business in these territories".

The US-based company said it now has about 200 listings in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and made its decision after speaking to "various experts", including critics of Airbnb's listings in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Israel's tourism minister, Yariv Levin, called on Airbnb to rescind its "discriminatory decision" which he called "a disgraceful surrender".

Palestinian official Saab Erekat wrote to Airbnb's CEO in January 2016 asking the company to end its relationship with Israeli settlements, and Human Rights Watch called on all businesses to cut ties with companies operating in West Bank settlements in its "Occupation, Inc".

Israel captured the West Bank from Jordanian forces in 1967 and continues to control and occupy the area, although Palestinians have limited self-rule over small enclaves.

"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", Airbnb said on its website.

The short-term home rental company said in a press release that it had previously allowed the listings - around 200 - as USA law permitted Airbnb to operate in the disputed territory, but that it had "wrestled with this issue and we have struggled to come up with the right approach".

"Airbnb's decision to end its listings in Israeli settlements is an important recognition that such listings can't square with its human rights responsibilities", the group said on Monday.

The Airbnb site posted the following announcement. The group said its report would be released on Tuesday morning. There are an estimated just over 200 listings in Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

"National conflicts exist all over the world", said Erdan, whose duties include combating the BDS movement, for boycott, divestment and sanctions.

Strategic Affairs and Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan called the move a "submission to the anti-Semitic BDS organizations... a choice to take a racist political stance against some of Israel's citizens".

Israelis say they feel singled out, while there are other conflicts going on that haven't received as much global scrutiny.

One settlement resident, Eliana Passentin, 45, said she had listed her home in Eli, overlooking ancient Shiloh, on Airbnb in the past and had been thinking of doing so again for the Hanukkah holiday in December. Monday's decision did not seem to include the Golan Heights, which Israel annexed in 1981 in a move not recognized internationally.

"Airbnb's approach of singling out Jews from all the disputes in the world will put it at odds with USA state BDS laws, and principles of discrimination", Kontorovich said. "We urge other companies to follow suit".

A spokesperson for company said the decision will go into effect "in the coming days".

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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