Airbnb: Israeli uproar as firm bars West Bank settlements

An Israeli bulldozer can be seen destroying a Palestinian property in the Silwan neighborhood located on the outskirts of the occupied Old City of East Jerusalem al-Quds

Airbnb to remove West Bank listings

Global home accommodation company Airbnb today announced that it has chose to remove all its listings on West Bank settlements.

Airbnb has previously been criticised by Palestinian officials and human rights campaigners for allowing listings of homes to rent in Israeli settlements on the occupied West Bank. Many other countries too deem Israeli settlements there as illegal and Palestinian officials, anti-settlement advocates and human rights groups have long advocated for Airbnb to remove such listings.

While the company is positioning this as an ethical decision, there's a pragmatic incentive to withdraw the listings.

Oded Revivi, mayor of the West Bank settlement of Efrat, said Airbnb had violated its own stated mission "to bring people together in as many places as possible around the world".

The leader of a settlement group said the decision "does an injustice to Israelis living in Judea and Samaria", referring to the West Bank by a Biblical name.

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.

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 United States courts.

And tourism minister Yariv Levin described it as "the most wretched of wretched capitulations to the boycott efforts".

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Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel, in turn, accused the rental company of hypocrisy, saying that it "operates in the darkest dictatorships in the word and preaches morality to us".

The issue of settlements is one of the most contentious areas of dispute between Israel and the Palestinians.

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

Airbnb's announcement preceded the publication Tuesday of a critical report by New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW).

If this is indeed the case, then Airbnb is officially accusing Israeli Jews of "contributing to existing human suffering" via their settlement policies.

Activists have for years called for Airbnb and other companies to withdraw from the disputed territory, and Airbnb acknowledged it had "struggled to come up with the right approach". Settler council Yesha agreed that the company's actions "can only be a result of anti-Semitism or surrendering to terrorism - or both".

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".

"This is an unfortunate decision that constitutes submission to the anti-Semitic BDS organisations and is based on political considerations rather than business considerations", said Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan.

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