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Airbnb to end settlement listings in ‘occupied West Bank,’ will evaluate if rentals cause ‘human suffering’

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Airbnb, the popular home rental company, announced on Monday that it would be removing its listings in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, drawing praise from Palestinian activists who have been advocating for the move for years.

In a statement on its website, Airbnb said: “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.”

“Many in the global community have stated that companies should not do business here because they believe companies should not profit on lands where people have been displaced,” the statement continued, adding that as part of their decision making process, they “evaluate whether the existence of listings is contributing to existing human suffering.”

The San Francisco-based company said the decision will affect some 200 listings in West Bank settlements, but did not specify when the decision will take effect.

Airbnb’s announcement came one day before the expected release of a scathing 65-page report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) entitled “Bed and Breakfast on Stolen Land: Tourist Rental Listings in West Bank Settlements,” leading to speculation that the company made the move in an effort to get ahead of the HRW report and avoid further public backlash.

In response to Airbnb’s announcement, Arvind Ganesan, Business and Human rights Director at HRW, said: “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.”

“For two years, Human Rights Watch has spoken with Airbnb about their brokering of rentals in West Bank settlements that are illegal under international humanitarian law and for which Palestinian ID holders are effectively barred from entering, and are issuing a report about this tomorrow. We urge other companies to follow suit,” Ganesan said.

Palestinian activists and proponents of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement have long lobbied Airbnb to end its work in the Jewish-only settlements, which are illegal under international law.

CODEPINK, a U.S.-based women-led grassroots organization, which have been vocal in its criticism of of Airbnb’s work in settlements, celebrated the move on Twitter as a “victory,” adding “Let’s keep up the social pressure to cut ties to Israel in support of Palestinian human rights!”

Diana Buttu, the Palestinian-Canadian lawyer and former spokesperson for the PLO, also tweeted in support of the decision, saying she was “glad they [Airbnb] are getting the message that the world doesn’t think it’s OK to steal land.”

“As someone who lives here I can attest that Israel will never change unless it is shown that its actions are wrong,” she said, adding that Airbnb maintained a listing in the Havat Gilad settlement, “where armed settlers threatened to shoot me for going on a walk.”

Top Palestinian negotiator Dr. Saeb Erekat welcomed the decision and reiterated his call for the UN Human Rights Council “to release the database of companies profiting from the Israeli colonial occupation.”

Meanwhile, Israeli politicians came out in full force against the decision, with Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan calling on the settlers who would be affected by the decision to file lawsuits against Airbnb in accordance with Israel’s anti-boycott law, Haaretz reported.

“National conflict exist throughout the world and Airbnb will need to explain why they chose a racist political stance against some Israeli citizens,” Haaretz quoted Erdan as saying, adding that he said he would be consulting senior U.S. officials “to check if the company’s decision violated the anti-boycott laws that exist in over 25 states.”

Israel’s Tourism Minister Yariv Levin condemned the move as “disgraceful and miserable,” and called on the ministry to “restrict” Airbnb’s operations across Israel.

Israeli settlements, which have seen a surge in construction under Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. President Donald Trump, are considered by Palestinians and the international community as a major roadblock to peace efforts.

Some 600,000 Israelis live in illegal settlements — many built on privately-owned Palestinian land — scattered across the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem, on land that Palestinians want for a future state.

H/t Tova Perlmutter.

yumnapatel
About Yumna Patel

Yumna Patel is a multimedia journalist based in Bethlehem, Palestine. Follow her on Twitter at @yumna_patel

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7 Responses

  1. Kay24
    Kay24
    November 19, 2018, 7:00 pm

    Great news. Finally AirBnB does the right thing in support of justice for the Palestinians.

    Now if only other companies, have the decency to do the same.

  2. John O
    John O
    November 20, 2018, 3:46 am

    Interesting brief report on this on BBC radio this morning – quoting the Palestinian reaction rather than the usual Israeli one. Another worm turns.

  3. Kay24
    Kay24
    November 20, 2018, 5:56 am

    So they can’t take defeat gracefully. The vindictiveness kicks in even when they are in the wrong.

    https://www.juancole.com/2018/11/israel-sue-airbnb.html

  4. ejran
    ejran
    November 20, 2018, 8:27 am

    I am sorry, but my stomach turns at the use of some apologist terms at the end of this article, terms that water down the reality of occupation and injustice. ‘Israeli settlements (…) are considered by Palestinians and the international community as a major roadblock to peace efforts.’
    ‘Some 600,000 Israelis live in illegal settlements (…) on land that Palestinians want for a future state.’
    ‘Peace efforts’, lands ‘wanted’ for a ‘future state’. It is useful here to remember the words of prominent settlement activist Daniella Weiss:

    “It’s true that in the course of history Arabs came to this area from all over. But the promise of God is more important than the changes in history and the political changes. That is why you have to put it deep, deep into your mind that you do not have any chance whatsoever, in any point of history, neither you nor any of your offspring, to ever have an independent state of your own here. In my many talks with Ariel Sharon and my work with Ariel Sharon there was a clear understanding, a very clear planning, of spreading the Jewish communities in the way that there will be no option for a Palestinian state in Judea and Samaria.”

  5. Misterioso
    Misterioso
    November 20, 2018, 10:18 am

    @ejran

    “It’s true that in the course of history Arabs came to this area from all over.”

    Reality:
    Recent in depth DNA analysis has proven conclusively that including their ancestors, Palestinians have lived continuously between the River and the Sea for about 15,000 years.

    To wit:

    http://journal.frontiersin.org/article/10.3389/fgene.2017.00087/full Front. Genet., 21 June 2017 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fgene.2017.00087

    EXCERPT: “The Origins of Ashkenaz, Ashkenazic Jews, and Yiddish”

    “Recent genetic samples from bones found in Palestine dating to the Epipaleolithic (20000-10500 BCE) showed remarkable resemblance to modern day Palestinians.”

    Furthermore:
    “The non-Levantine origin of AJs [Ashkenazi Jews] is further supported by an ancient DNA analysis of six Natufians and a Levantine Neolithic (Lazaridis et al., 2016), some of the most likely Judaean progenitors (Finkelstein and Silberman, 2002; Frendo, 2004). In a principle component analysis (PCA), the ancient Levantines clustered predominantly with modern-day Palestinians and Bedouins and marginally overlapped with Arabian Jews, whereas AJs clustered away from Levantine individuals and adjacent to Neolithic Anatolians and Late Neolithic and Bronze Age Europeans.”

    “Overall, the combined results are in a strong agreement with the predictions of the Irano-Turko-Slavic hypothesis (Table 1) and rule out an ancient Levantine origin for AJs, which is predominant among modern-day Levantine populations (e.g., Bedouins and Palestinians). This is not surprising since Jews differed in cultural practices and norms (Sand, 2011) and tended to adopt local customs (Falk, 2006). Very little Palestinian Jewish culture survived outside of Palestine (Sand, 2009). For example, the folklore and folkways of the Jews in northern Europe is distinctly pre-Christian German (Patai, 1983) and Slavic in origin, which disappeared among the latter (Wexler, 1993, 2012).”

    The Jebusite/Canaanites were ancestors of today’s Palestinians and it was they who founded Jerusalem around 3000 BCE. Originally known as Jebus, the first recorded reference to it as “Rushalimum” or “Urussalim,” site of the sacred Foundation Rock, appears in Egyptian Execration Texts of the nineteenth century BCE, nearly 800 years before it is alleged King David was born. Its name “seems to have incorporated the name of the Syrian god Shalem [the Canaanite God of Dusk], who was identified with the setting sun or the evening star…and] can probably be translated as ‘Shalem has founded’.” (Karen Armstrong, Jerusalem, One City, Three Faiths; Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1996, pp.6-7)

    It is estimated that the Hebrews did not invade until circa 1184 BCE and their resulting United Kingdom of Israel, which never controlled the coast from Jaffa to Gaza, lasted only about 75-80 years, less than a blip in the history of Canaan and Palestine.

    Thus far, no credible archaeological evidence, or more importantly, writings of contemporaneous civilisations, have been found that prove Solomon or David actually existed. (Nor has any evidence been discovered to confirm that a Jewish exodus from Egypt ever occurred. )

    To quote the late renowned Jewish Israeli writer/columnist, Uri Avnery: “[David and Solomon’s] existence is disproved, inter alia, by their total absence from the voluminous correspondence of Egyptian rulers and spies in the Land of Canaan.” (“A Curious National Home,” by Uri Avnery, May 13/17 – http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/avnery/1494589093/)

    Jewish missionaries converted many pagan peoples to their faith in the Middle East, including Palestine, as well as Africa, Asia and Europe, especially during the two centuries preceding Christianity. Also, the Zionist claim that descendants of those Jews expelled from Palestine by the Romans have lived apart throughout the world for nearly two millennia and not intermingled with people outside of their religion is utterly absurd. To quote Polish born David Ben-Gurion (real name, David Gruen): “‘race’ does not unite Jewry since the ancient people dissipated after so much dispersion.” (Philippe de Saint Robert, Le Jeu de la France en
    Mediteranee ,1970, p.182)

  6. HarryLaw
    HarryLaw
    November 20, 2018, 1:28 pm

    The threat of legal action could be why this company have acted in this way…. “Staying in an Airbnb rental in a settlement “facilitates the commission of the crime of establishing settlements” and “therefore aids and abets the crime”, said John Dugard, professor of international law and former UN special rapporteur on Palestinian human rights. Similarly, Airbnb “could in theory be prosecuted in [a European Union] country with aiding and abetting the commission of a crime” due to “making money from property built on [an] illegal settlement”, Dugard says”.
    Airbnb did not respond directly to queries about its standing under international law.

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