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Airbnb decision to end West Bank listings spurs ADL to smear BDS campaign

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. 

James North and Philip Weiss

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15 Responses

  1. amigo on November 22, 2018, 3:15 pm

    Why is the ADL wasting it,s donor,s money.Don,t these people ever consult with their King .

    • Misterioso on November 23, 2018, 10:49 am

      @amigo, et al

      Meanwhile, more to drive the ADL nuts:


      “Israeli Academics and Artists Warn Against Equating anti-Zionism With anti-Semitism”
      By Ofer Aderet, Haaretz, Nov. 20/18

      “Their open letter ahead of a conference in Vienna advises against giving Israel immunity for ‘grave and widespread violations of human rights and international law.’”

      “We have a duty to help the children of Palestine” British teachers and lecturers, Nov. 20/18

      “On the UN’s Universal Children’s Day – 20 November – teachers and lecturers urge the UK government to lobby for the release of child prisoners and an end to the mistreatment of children detained under military law

      “As teachers and lecturers, we feel strongly that today, on the UN’s Universal Children’s Day, we must call on our government to work with increased determination to achieve improved welfare for the children living in Palestine under occupation and in Gaza. On this day, we are reminded that we have a duty to advocate for children’s rights as set out in the declaration of the rights of the child, which was adopted in 1959, and the convention on the rights of the child, adopted in 1989.

      “We believe it is shameful that children live in fear, in particular the fear of being detained and imprisoned under military law.

      “It is a blight on the international community that we are not preventing the arrest of children following the invasion of their homes in the middle of the night by heavily armed soldiers. We are horrified that following their arrest children have their hands bound with plastic ties, are blindfolded and transported away from their families in military vehicles.
      We cannot comprehend how any government can preside over such a system. Then to hear that children are also held in solitary confinement makes us realise that this is a system that contravenes the rights of a child in so many ways.

      “So on this day, and every day, we are demanding that our government lobbies in the strongest possible way for the release of child prisoners and an end to the mistreatment of children detained under military law.”
      Signed by Mary Bousted, Joint general secretary, National Education Union, et al.


      “Quakers will not profit from the occupation of Palestine” Nov. 19/18

      “Quakers in Britain has today become the first church in the UK to announce it will not invest any of its centrally-held funds in companies profiting from the occupation of Palestine.”

      “The decision, made by the church’s trustees in consultation with Meeting for Sufferings – the national representative body of Quakers – fits into a long Quaker history of pursuing ethical investments. It follows decisions not to invest funds in, among others, the fossil fuel industry, arms companies, Apartheid South Africa, and – going even further back – the transatlantic slave trade.

      “Paul Parker, recording clerk for Quakers in Britain, said: ‘Our long history of working for a just peace in Palestine and Israel has opened our eyes to the many injustices and violations of international law arising from the military occupation of Palestine by the Israeli government.’

      “‘With the occupation now in its 51st year, and with no end in near sight, we believe we have a moral duty to state publicly that we will not invest in any company profiting from the occupation.’

      “‘We know this decision will be hard for some to hear. We hope they will understand that our beliefs compel us to speak out about injustices wherever we see them in the world, and not to shy away from difficult conversations.’

      “‘As Quakers, we seek to live out our faith through everyday actions, including the choices we make about where to put our money.’

      “‘We believe strongly in the power of legitimate, nonviolent, democratic tools such as morally responsible investment to realise positive change in the world. We want to make sure our money and energies are instead put into places which support our commitments to peace, equality and justice.

      “‘We hope that by announcing our refusal to profit from these companies it will encourage others to think about their own investments, and help challenge the legality and practices of the ongoing military occupation.’

      “Ingrid Greenhow, clerk of Quakers in Britain trustees, said: ‘While we do not believe we currently hold investments in any company profiting from the occupation, we will now amend our investment policy to ensure this remains the case in future.’

      ”’This includes companies – whichever country they are based in – involved for example in the illegal exploitation of natural resources in occupied Palestine, and the construction and servicing of the separation barrier and Israeli settlements.’

      “‘We look forward to the publication of the UN Business and Human Rights Database which will list companies involved in settlement-related activities in occupied Palestine. We recognise the help this – and others including the Investigate database compiled by the American Friends Service Committee – will give our investment managers in implementing this new policy.’

      “In their minute, the trustees said, ‘We hope this policy might be useful to [Quaker] area meetings interested in adopting a similar approach.’

      “In their minute, Meeting for Sufferings reaffirmed their 2011 decision to boycott goods produced in Israeli settlements built in occupied Palestine ‘until such time as the Israeli occupation of Palestine is ended.’

      “Meeting for Sufferings added that, ‘[W]e continually pray for both Israelis and Palestinians, keeping them together in our hearts, and looking forward to a future of loving and generous co-operation.'”


      To state the obvious, according to the ADL and its ilk, it is “anti-Semitic” to support hard won international humanitarian law, which came about in large measure as a consequence of the monstrous crimes of the Nazis.

  2. Philip Munger on November 22, 2018, 6:01 pm

    Yesterday Mr. Greenblatt tweeted:

    We are dismayed with @Airbnb’s decision to de-list properties in the West Bank. I sent a letter this morning to @bchesky laying out my concerns and posing questions to him that must be answered.

    I responded:

    @JGeenblatt – if you can help me start a Palestinian airbnb in Hebron that I can get to from Tel Aviv airport, I will help you get the Israeli-occupiers you support in the WB back into Airbnb…deal?

    no response from him yet

  3. Marnie on November 23, 2018, 12:04 am

    Poor JGreenblatt. I had no idea being a zionist hasbara douchebag was such a hard job. He looks exhausted and completely devoid of color. He reminds me a lot of Stephen Miller.

    ‘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.’

    Right. IOW any decision that could possibly [email protected]$k palestinians less is a considered a direct threat to the borderless national home of the jews. Of course it’s someone else’s home, but please don’t concern yourself with facts when bullshit has been working for a century!

  4. Maghlawatan on November 23, 2018, 12:24 am

    Greenblatt and the rest of the bots think Israel can make the settlement project work. The groupthink is so strong and they are getting power brokers to agree that anti Zionism is antisemitism. What can possibly go wrong?
    Transatlantic Inst
    Thank you
    for your exceptional leadership on combatting #antisemitism and strengthening Jewish life in Europe.

    The EU’s accession to
    as a Permanent International Partner is another step towards confronting all forms of antisemitism, including anti-Zionism.

  5. Misterioso on November 23, 2018, 9:50 am

    This development should make the ADL even angrier:

    “Chefs take Israeli propaganda off the menu” by Nora Barrows-Friedman

    The Electronic Intifada, Nov. 16/18

    “One of New York’s best known chefs has withdrawn from Round Tables, an annual Israeli government-sponsored propaganda initiative.

    “Gabrielle Hamilton, the award-winning chef and owner of Prune restaurant in New York City dropped out of the Tel Aviv initiative this week. Hamilton, author of the memoir Blood, Bones and Butter, follows Ana Roš from the Slovenian restaurant Hiša Franko, who had earlier pulled out of the event.

    “The cancellations follow sustained calls for boycotting the events. Ninety international chefs and culinary figures had signed an appeal to respect the Palestinian-led campaign for boycotting Israel.

    “'[As] professionals committed to food sovereignty and food access for all, we know that none of us can lend our names or our cooking skills to an Israeli government-sponsored culinary event such as this one. Our values around good food must include everyone, including the Palestinian people,’ the appeal states.

    “Slamming Israel’s theft of Palestinian food and culture, including its declaration of falafel as an ‘Israeli’ dish, Israeli activists from the group Boycott from Within also urged participating chefs to drop out of the initiative.

    “’Israel is a settler-colonial state, perpetrating the erasure of the indigenous Palestinian people, both physically and by means of appropriation of their culture, including indigenous food,’ the activists wrote.

    “Boycott campaigners say that they have made the Round Tables initiative a toxic brand. That has been proven by the festival’s sharp decline in chefs willing to participate as well as a drastic uptick in the number of international chefs, food writers and culinary icons who have joined the campaign to support the call for boycotting Round Tables.”

    Also – Jewish Voice for Peace Video:
    “On BDS, indigenous food sovereignty, & making our movement delicious… JVP collaboration w/Food Book Fair, AMP’s Dream Cafe project, & the brilliant chefs of this creative resistance to Brand Israel’s culture-washing food fest.”

    • Mooser on November 23, 2018, 4:33 pm

      I always hoped the Chef Rabbis would have a positive role to play.

    • annie on November 23, 2018, 6:48 pm

      Misterioso, thanks for posting the awesome video!

      • Misterioso on November 23, 2018, 7:42 pm



  6. Spring Renouncer on November 23, 2018, 12:31 pm

    By being a willing and eager propaganda mouthpiece for Israel and Netanyahu the ADL is “delegitimizing” (their favorite word) its purported central mission of combating antisemitism. Whenever a tragedy like the Pittsburgh shooting happens Greenblatt and ADL will necessarily be stained and come off as political and divisive, rather than righteous and unifying. They don’t represent Jews; they represent an imperialist political project.

  7. dgfincham on November 24, 2018, 3:10 am

    Someone should tell ADL that Israel was NOT invaded by 5 Arab armies in 1948. Only Syrian and Egyptian forces crossed Israel’s declared borders, those in the UN partition plan. On the other hand, Zionist forces were operating outside those borders before the declaration of the state of Israel. The Arab forces were responding to Israel’s invasion of Palestine, but waited until the end of the Mandate so as not to annoy the British and the UN.

    • Shingo on November 24, 2018, 5:33 pm

      Very true.

      The ADL didn’t even bother to consult the Israeli MFA web site which states that the Arab armies invaded PALESTINE, not Israel.

    • RoHa on November 24, 2018, 11:17 pm

      Do you think that the ADL will care about mere facts?

  8. JWalters on November 24, 2018, 6:55 pm

    “the ‘core of the dispute’ is that too many do not want a Jewish state to exist.”
    – Jonathan Greenblatt

    This is flatly false. People do not object to ANY Jewish state existing. They object to a Jewish state built on massive crimes to vast numbers of innocent people. They object to a self-proclaimed aristocracy excusing itself of such crimes. Therefore they object to this particular, Zionist Jewish state.

    Lies are key tools of the Zionist state, and smears are standard operating procedure. An undercover video of Israeli political dirty tricks in America documents the sexual smear tactic. For example, a female member of Students for Justice in Palestine was smeared with anonymous accusations of “promiscuity”, causing problems with her family, who wanted her to leave SJP. An American professor at a university in the U.S. who gave a pro-Palestinian interview found him and his family targeted by smears. He suddenly found himself facing multiple anonymous websites accusing him of sexual harassment. A link was sent to his wife.

    The documentary can be viewed at The Electronic Intifada.
    Episodes 1 & 2.
    Episodes 3 & 4

  9. Rashers2 on November 25, 2018, 11:32 pm

    It amazes me that the great majority that hears hummus and falafel described as “Israeli food” doesn’t simply laugh aloud! “Israeli cuisine” (if such there is in the sense of a culinary tradition or heritage) is the food of the Ashkenazi colonists, the dishes from Central and Eastern Europe, from Mileikowsky’s Poland/historical Greater Lithuania; from Lieberman’s Belarus: the clichés of chicken soup with barley and gefilte fish… When, however, a group becomes used to expropriating and claiming as its own that which doesn’t belong to it, cultural theft is consonant with its illusions of entitlement.

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