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.
VICTORY! @Airbnb just announced they are removing all listings in West Bank settlements!
Let’s keep up the social pressure to cut ties to Israel in support of Palestinian human rights! Call on @edsheeran not to perform in Israel! https://t.co/599KuLu4eU pic.twitter.com/j77ngJjFxt
— CODEPINK (@codepink) November 19, 2018
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.”
Airbnb maintained a listing in the illegal Israeli settlement of Khavat Gilad – where armed settlers threatened to shoot me for going on a walk. Glad they are getting the message that the world doesn’t think it’s OK to steal land.
— Diana Buttu (@dianabuttu) November 19, 2018
“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.