We thought Airbnb’s decision to end listings in the occupied West Bank was a minor story, and we were wrong. Maybe because of the long creative campaign against Airbnb listings, maybe because of the Human Rights Watch report condemning the listings, maybe because of the Israeli government’s enraged response to the move, the AP and the New York Times got on the story, so it is one of the rare cases where the mainstream media puts its head over the parapet and reports on Palestinian conditions in the West Bank. And if there’s one thing hasbara organizations hate, it’s when the media pays attention to the fact that Palestinians in the occupied territories have no rights.
Echoing the Israeli government’s rage, and talking points, the ADL director struck back against Airbnb in a letter accusing the organization of giving in to anti-Semites. The ADL is dedicated to fighting bigotry in the U.S., but Jonathan Greenblatt reels off pro-Israel storylines that dip into Islamophobia in their indifference to Palestinians’ objections to an expansionist Jewish state in their land:
“[U]pon the founding of Israel in 1948 . . . five Arab countries invaded the fledgling nation in order to wipe it off the face of the Earth . . . [T]here are voices in Palestinian society as well as others in the Arab world, who reject Israel’s legitimacy and call for a violent end to Israel itself. Unfortunately, the ‘core of the dispute’ is that too many do not want a Jewish state to exist.”
The ADL letter also echoes the Israeli government in treating the Airbnb decision as a victory for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, or BDS, which calls for boycott of Israel. Even though the Human Rights Watch report that spurred the Airbnb decision does not mention BDS, and neither does the Airbnb announcement, the decision must nonetheless be viewed as such because BDS supporters pushed for this decision and see it as an incremental victory.
Greenblatt stated bluntly that the BDS campaign is anti-Semitic, and again he sounded a lot like Benjamin Netanyahu inveighing against BDS:
For the past several years, the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement has worked around the world to isolate and delegitimize the state of Israel. The predominant drive of the BDS campaign and its leadership is not criticism of policies, but the demonization and delegitimization of Israel. BDS campaigns promote a biased and simplistic approach to the complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict . . .
Many of the founding goals of the BDS movement, including denying the Jewish people the universal right of self-determination — along with many of the strategies employed in BDS campaigns — are anti-Semitic. Many individuals involved in the starting and running of BDS campaigns are driven by opposition to Israel’s very existence as a Jewish state. And, all too often, BDS advocates employ anti-Semitic rhetoric and narratives to isolate and demonize Israel.
That is why we were dismayed to read about Airbnb’s recent announcement to not list rentals in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. With this decision, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and its supporters will be further emboldened and view it as a victory for their hateful campaign against Israel.
Peter Beinart promptly destroyed this pettifogging protectionist letter by asking the ADL to do its job and bear witness at last.
Here’s a thought. Take the ADL’s staff to the West Bank. See what it’s like for people to live for a half-century as stateless non-citizens, without free movement, due process or the right to vote under military law. Then start living up to your mission to fight for human rights
His brave note is getting a lot more attention than the ADL’s cowardly statement. Though, to be sure, Beinart’s boycott call is limited to the West Bank; he does not support the BDS call in full.
Why does the Airbnb story have legs when the murder of 100s of Palestinian protesters at the Gaza border doesn’t? That is a mystery. But we’re happy it’s getting attention.
Thanks to Allison Deger and Anthony Schmitz.