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Airbnb is preventing Palestinian hosts from listing their homes in the occupied West Bank

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Mondoweiss has learned that Airbnb is currently preventing Palestinian hosts from listing their homes in the occupied West Bank.

When attempting to list a property for rent in a Palestinian city in the West Bank, users are denied by the website, and given a message saying “country code is invalid.”

Mondoweiss attempted to post a listing in the West Bank cities of Bethlehem, Ramallah, and Nablus, and received the same notification.

Airbnb and other websites that require addresses and GPS coordinates have historically had issues with users in places like the West Bank, where many Palestinian areas do not have formal residential addresses.

But when speaking with an Israeli Airbnb customer representative, the rep told a Mondoweiss reporter that the issue was not with the lack of a formal address for the listing, but that their listing in the city of Bethlehem was not being approved because they were in the West Bank.

When asked if it was a possible website glitch, and that Palestinian listings were accidentally being affected due to their proximity to settlements, the representative said “it is not an issue with the algorithm.”

Mondoweiss spoke to a customer service rep in the US, and received a similar answer: any listings coming out of the West Bank were not currently being approved by Airbnb’s website — regardless if the listing is in a Palestinian city, or in an Israeli settlement.

Any further questions were referred to the company’s press office.

This comes just weeks after Airbnb’s landmark decision to pull out of Israeli settlements which are built in the occupied West Bank in contravention of international law. The move was hailed as a win for BDS activists, and widely criticized by Israeli officials and the pro-Israel lobby in the US.

In its press release at the time, Airbnb said the decision would be affecting some 200 listings in West Bank settlements.

The company made no mention of any effects on hundreds of Palestinian listings in the territory.

When further inquiring as to why Palestinian listings were not being approved, the US customer service representative referred to the company’s November press release, saying “this is what we got from the company.”

Since that November decision, Airbnb has face major backlash from Israel and its supporters, who say Israeli settlers are being discriminated against .

According to a Forbes report, Airbnb is now facing threats of boycotts from several US cities, and that several U.S. states are researching whether the company has broken state laws by prohibiting the listings in settlements.

Though no official date was announced at the time as to when the Israeli settlement listings would be taken down, it seems that the company has acted quite fast.

When searching for rental properties in major Israeli settlements across the West Bank, like Ma’ale Adumim and Gush Etzion, virtually no Israeli listings in the area come up.

Instead, Airbnb provides a list of the Palestinian listings in the nearest geographical location to the searched settlement.

If Airbnb’s decision is in fact affecting Palestinian hosts in the West Bank, it is seemingly only affecting new hosts.

Listings that existed before November’s decision are still up on the website, and available for travelers to rent out. Mondoweiss spoke to Palestinian Airbnb hosts in the West Bank, who said they hadn’t noticed any changes made to their existing accounts since the decision.

Only when attempting to post a new listing in the West Bank are Airbnb hosts denied.

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.

Mondoweiss has reached out to the Airbnb press office for statement.

Yumna Patel

Yumna Patel is the Palestine correspondent for Mondoweiss. Follow her on Twitter at @yumna_patel

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11 Responses

  1. DaBakr on December 12, 2018, 10:17 am

    As short sited, politically tricky and reckless as bnb policy is this is exactly how it’s policy will fail and be replaced with a service that allows Arab and jew without distinction to rent homes in Judea.

    • eljay on December 12, 2018, 10:51 am

      || @aa: As short sited, politically tricky and reckless as bnb policy is … ||

      “bnb policy” sounds a lot like Zionism.

      || … this is exactly how it’s policy will fail and be replaced with a service that allows Arab and jew without distinction to rent homes in Judea. ||

      An even better service is one that allows people to rent homes in Israel and Palestine.

    • amigo on December 12, 2018, 10:57 am

      “rent homes in Judea. ” duhbakr

      Where is this mythical Biblical Judea.The bible is a book written by Jews for Jews.It is hardly credible or could be used as evidence in a normal serious court of law.

      It is officially recognised in intl law as “The Occupied West Bank” aka Palestine as recognised by 137 nations.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_recognition_of_the_State_of_Palestine

    • Misterioso on December 12, 2018, 11:11 am

      @DaBakr

      “Judea” exists only in the mind of Zionists. In reality and according to international law, it consists of the illegally and brutally occupied Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem.

      • DaBakr on December 12, 2018, 3:05 pm

        Judea exists throughout thousands of years of history. It is you anti Zionist Israel haters that are so mystified by its existence. But hey, don’t look at any maps on my account. Just keep repeating the mantra: the west bank is palestine. even the palestinian arabs think it’s a joke.

      • John O on December 12, 2018, 5:30 pm

        @DaBakr

        Judea is like Mercia, or Anjou – an ancient division of land; about as relevant to the 21st century as ridge-and-furrow ploughing or windmills. The world has moved on.

      • MHughes976 on December 13, 2018, 4:54 pm

        The area around Jerusalem was called ‘Judaea’ for a thousand or so years up to around 150 CE and at some times the area known by that name was quite large. The Romans no doubt wished to please their Hasmonean and Herodian allies. But the only term for the whole of modern Palestine clearly attested from the pre-Roman period – except maybe for the Seleucid ‘Coele Syria’ – was ‘Palestine’.

    • John O on December 12, 2018, 1:35 pm

      @DaBakr

      Generous-minded as I am, I took from the article, that part of AirBnB’s response has been to stop ANY new listings from the Occupied West Bank. This stops Israeli squatters from offering their stolen properties for rent, but also stops Palestinians from letting out their legitimately owned properties. Fortunately, since Israel’s apartheid system prevents the two communities living side by side in mixed communities, it should be relatively easy for AirBnB to identify where the squatters live and block those addresses.

      • DaBakr on December 12, 2018, 3:03 pm

        @j

        Correct. In fact, they hopefully will do exactly that.

      • John O on December 12, 2018, 5:44 pm

        @DaBakr

        You don’t do yourself any favours by pretending that you are on our side regarding the squatters in the West Bank. If AirBnB were to list Palestinian-owned properties but not those squatted in by Israelis that would be nice gesture. It would do nothing, however, towards restoring those properties to their rightful owners. That requires the sort of political action that you would not be at all comfortable with. And it’s coming.

      • DaBakr on December 18, 2018, 8:06 am

        Not pretending I am. I am predicting air bnb will fail in their strategy

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