Thursday, 13 December, 2018

Airbnb removes Israeli West Bank settlement listings

An Airbnb event featuring Ashton Kutcher in Los Angeles 2016 was disrupted by protesters demonstrating against settlement Airbnb to remove West Bank listings
Steven Clarke | 20 November, 2018, 08:58

Israel's official position is that the territory in the West Bank is disputed, not occupied.

Palestinians in 2016 threatened to take legal action against Airbnb over its West Bank listings, accusing the company of presenting homes in occupied territory as if they were in Israel. "I hope a lot of pressure will be put on the CEO of Airbnb and they'll realize they made a huge mistake".

"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", a statement on the Airbnb website said.

Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the USA and current deputy minister in PM Netanyahu's office, called for a revenge boycott, deeming AirBnB's policy "the very definition of anti-Semitism".

According to a 2016 report from Human Rights Watch, "Settlement businesses depend on and benefit from Israel's unlawful confiscation of Palestinian land and other resources, and facilitate the functioning and growth of settlements".

Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin called Airbnb's move "discriminatory" and ordered his ministry to formulate a retaliatory plan to "limit the company's activities" in Israel, adding that the country would back settlement listers' lawsuits in both Israeli and USA courts. "There are no two Israels". Airbnb said that, as an industry leader, it "must consider the impact we have and act responsibly".

"Palestinians on the ground spoke out about how Airbnb was affecting them by supporting settlements, and as global solidarity activists, we took to the streets, used social and traditional media and disrupted Airbnb events across the U.S. - all to have our voices heard that Palestinians deserve to live with freedom, dignity and equality", Gold said.

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"International companies are interested in doing business with the State of Israel, but are unwilling to accept the continued military control of millions of Palestinians", the group said.

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

The rights group also noted that Airbnb's move came just a day before its planned release of a 65-page report reporting on tourist rental activity in the illegally occupied West Bank.

There are still listings on the site for places to stay in Palestinian-controlled areas of the West Bank.

"This is a miserable decision and a disgraceful surrender by the company", Levin said. "The senior management of Airbnb will have to explain why they specifically, and uniquely, chose to implement this political and discriminatory decision in the case of citizens of the state of Israel".

Eugene Kontorovich, a law professor and pro-settlement advocate, said Airbnb's new policy amounted to anti-Semitism and could violate USA anti-BDS laws at the state level. About 200 listings are affected. "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". Monday's decision did not seem to include the Golan Heights, which Israel annexed in 1981 in a move not recognized internationally. "We urge other companies to follow suit".

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