Airbnb is denying claims by Israel’s tourism minister that the company was going to reverse its November decision to remove listings in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said in a Facebook post on Monday that following meetings with Israeli government officials, Airbnb would not be implementing its November decision. He hailed the move as a “step in the right direction.”
Several Israeli media outlets also made similar claims, quoting a Hebrew statement sent out by an Israeli Airbnb representative that said “our policy will not be implemented.”
But in a statement released later on Monday afternoon, Airbnb said the comments were “inaccurate,” adding that the company is “developing the tools needed to implement our policy and that process includes continuing our dialogue with the Government of Israel and other stakeholders.”
In the statement, Airbnb also expressed its “unequivocal rejection of the BDS movement” (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) and its “commitment to develop its business in Israel.”
Airbnb announced on November 19th that it would be removing some 200 listings in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
At the time, Airbnb said in a statement that “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 said.
Since the November decision, Airbnb has face major backlash from Israel and its supporters, accusing the company of anti-Semitism and discrimination.
According to reports, Airbnb is now facing threats of boycotts from several US cities, and several U.S. states are researching whether the company has broken state laws by prohibiting the listings in settlements.
Tourism Minister Levin threatened at the time to take legal action against the company in both the US and Israel, and said that his ministry was preparing immediate measures to limit Airbnb’s activities across Israel.
Earlier this month, Mondoweiss learned that Palestinians in the West Bank were being prevented from posting new listings on the website.
Both a US and Israeli customer service representative told Mondoweiss at the time that as per company orders, they were not approving any listing requests coming out of the West Bank — both Palestinian and Israeli alike.
Airbnb has not responded to several requests for comment from Mondoweiss.
An estimated 500,000 – 600,000 Israeli settlers live in settlements and outposts across the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Golan Heights. Those settlements are considered illegal under international law.
Airbnb and other rental companies like it have long been criticized by the BDS movement for their activities in settlements and for profiting off the occupation.
Israeli settlements, many of which are built on privately-owned Palestinian land, are seen as a major obstacle to peace in the region.
Despite the changes happening to Airbnb’s operations in the “disputed territory” of the West Bank, the company has continued to operate in Israeli occupied East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.