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Airbnb officially reverses decision to pull out of Israeli settlements

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If you wanted a statement on a controversial issue regarding Israel obscured by events, the date you would choose for it is the day of Israeli elections. Everyone is now gazing at the apparent results, which indicate a major win for Netanyahu’s Likud. Who will notice the fact, that Airbnb just officially declared that it will continue doing business in illegal Israeli settlements, in reversal of its announced decision from November to pull out of these settlements in the occupied West Bank?

Airbnb has made maddening rhetorical somersaults in order to both have its settlement  cake and eat it too. First it announced its decision to pull out, preempting a Human Rights Watch report on this dirty business (the report also cited Booking.com, which pleaded the 5th). Then Airbnb seemed to reverse its decision following meetings with Israeli government officials, calling the issue “complex and emotional”, offering contradictory statements that were neither here nor there.

Meanwhile, in January, an Amnesty International report about this business pattern came out, emphasizing the brokers’ complicity in war crimes, also bringing into focus other companies such as TripAdvisor and Expedia.

After the announced decision to pull out in November, Israeli lawyers filed a class action suit against Airbnb. And yesterday (Tuesday), Airbnb caved in to these pressures: “Airbnb will not move forward with implementing the removal of listings in the West Bank from the platform,” the company said in a news release, as reported by Al Jazeera.

The company said the agreement settled all legal actions brought by hosts and potential hosts who went to court.

Airbnb is now trying to whitewash its crime by charity. Stating that it “will take no profits from this activity in the region”, the company claims that profit generated from its listings in the West Bank will be donated to non-profit groups dedicated to humanitarian aid in various parts of the world.

But this is really like Pilate ritually washing his hands. Arvind Ganesan of Human Rights Watch:

Donating profits from unlawful settlement listings, as they’ve promised to do, does nothing to remedy the ‘human suffering’ they have acknowledged that their activities cause. By continuing to do business in settlements, they remain complicit in the abuses settlements trigger.

Airbnb has had its chance. It initially attempted to avert bad PR by declaring its ‘good intention’ to pull out of (some) settlements, but then didn’t follow through. It caved into political and, let us not forget, economic pressure, and decided that it was not worth the trouble. Throughout the process since the initial declaration, it has been demonstrating weakness and cowardice, manifested in weak and contradictory statements, until it now officially declared that it will not realize its intention.

And it did this on the day where it would be least noticed, as everyone is looking at the Israeli elections. Airbnb, with all its earlier declared good intentions, will remain knowingly complicit in war-crimes, and this process leaves it as a symbol of surrender to Israeli criminality.

If Airbnb was not a major target for popular boycott, this chain of events now places it front and center as such. No charity actions will whitewash this crime.

H/t Nasser Butt

About Jonathan Ofir

Israeli musician, conductor and blogger / writer based in Denmark.

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18 Responses

  1. BillHaywood96
    BillHaywood96 on April 10, 2019, 11:48 am

    Question: Can Arabs rent Airbnb rooms in West Bank settlements?

    • annie
      annie on April 10, 2019, 12:11 pm

      can they even get into settlements without a work pass?

      • Jonathan Ofir
        Jonathan Ofir on April 10, 2019, 3:47 pm

        Quoting from the November Human Rights Watch report cited:

        “Shaaeb is not allowed to access his land, let alone granted the right to build a house on it and profit from renting it out, because Palestinian ID-holders are not allowed to enter settlements except as laborers bearing special permits. Guests with Palestinian IDs are not allowed to stay at the home that has been built on Shaaeb’s land or on any other settlement rental property, while Israelis and foreigners may do so freely. Indeed, Shaaeb holds US citizenship, but unlike other American citizens, he may not enter Ofra, because Israel has registered him in the Palestinian population registry that it maintains. So, Airbnb is facilitating the rental of the property on Shaaeb’s land – and more than a hundred other settlement properties – under conditions of inherent discrimination: Israelis and foreigners may pay to stay on the property, but Palestinians may not.”
        https://www.hrw.org/report/2018/11/20/bed-and-breakfast-stolen-land/tourist-rental-listings-west-bank-settlements

      • annie
        annie on April 14, 2019, 1:00 pm

        this is so disappointing. i actually had hope when airbnb said they were no longer going to engage w/the apartheid rentals because they are such a rich company i thought they could afford whatever court challenges came forward. i assumed they knew they would be challenged and were doing this for moral reasons. what a let down. if they did this just to end the boycott against them they were sorely mistaken.

        this would be the time to set up an alternative and equivalent online rental company that doesn’t serve apartheid clients.

      • echinococcus
        echinococcus on April 15, 2019, 4:54 am

        Annie

        “i assumed they… were doing this for moral reasons. what a let down”

        No letdowns possible if one assumes that the laws of physics govern nature. This is a corporation. No moral with profit. Someone thought that they may incur a serious loss by doing business in post-67 occupied Palestine, then they reassessed the boycott movement as still nowhere as strong as they believed. More than adequate as an explanation. Let’s see if boycotters can prove them wrong.

      • YoniFalic
        YoniFalic on April 15, 2019, 7:09 am

        Palestinians were only intervenors in the Airbnb lawsuit. The nature of the US legal system practically guaranteed that Airbnb would conclude it did not need the headache.

        Only al-Tamimi et al. v. Adelson et al. and Martillo et al. v. Twitter, Inc. is likely to go to the bitter end — the former because al-Tamimi is directly threatened by Adelson’s conspiracy to commit genocide and the latter because suing Twitter, Inc. does not really cost him anything while Twitter, Inc. has almost certainly already spent more than he is asking in compensation for damages and torts. (Penalties are another matter.)

  2. Kay24
    Kay24 on April 10, 2019, 12:00 pm

    It is time AirBnB was boycotted….over to you BDS.

  3. Steve Macklevore
    Steve Macklevore on April 10, 2019, 4:47 pm

    Very disappointing news.

  4. Pdxmuscle@comcast.net
    [email protected] on April 10, 2019, 4:57 pm

    As a Christian, the Pontius Pilate analogy is far more apt than the author intended. As the Gospels were written very soon after the destruction of the temple in 70AD and the slaughter of Jerusalem’s Jews, the new Christian community sought to ally itself with the victors, Rome, and distance itself from its Judaic origins. It was the Romans who in fact arrested, tortured and crucified Jesus. The cleansing of the Roman leader’s hands in fact contributed greatly to classic anti-Semitism by placing the killing of Jesus on the backs of Jews and not on the Romans who were the sole culprits who killed Jesus for sedition. Here Airbnb, the company running a business in occupied territory, like Pilate washes its hands and places the blame on others and makes it appear that it is indeed the humanistic corporation.

    2000 years and nothing changes.

    • RoHa
      RoHa on April 10, 2019, 10:58 pm

      That’s an excellent analogy.

      However,

      “As a Christian, the Pontius Pilate analogy is far more apt…”

      The Pontius Pilate analogy is not a Christian.

      “As the Gospels were written very soon after the destruction of the temple in 70AD …

      That is one set of estimates, but no-one really knows when they were written. The experts just argue with each other about it.

    • YoniFalic
      YoniFalic on April 11, 2019, 1:13 am

      [email protected] presents a completely erroneous history of the relationships among Romans, Judeans, Judaic populations, Christian Judeans, and Christians. In this rebellion, which started in 66, the Romans had the support of the ruling house, probably of the Alexandrian Judaic population, and probably of most of the Judean population.

      The only empire-wide persecution of Christians took place in the 3rd century CE under the Emperor Decius.

      Bar Kochba’s persecution of Christian Judeans, who were probably the vast majority of the peasants and who refused to support him, probably marks the split of Judaism and Christianity.

      • Pdxmuscle@comcast.net
        [email protected] on April 11, 2019, 1:35 pm

        Well, it just goes to show you that Christians argue just as well as Jewish folks. The point of my piece was that the more things change the more they remain the same. As per the quality of the information, a very wide consensus to the range of dates is agreed to. 66-70AD Mark, 85-90 Matthew and Luke, and 90-110 AD for John. My years at seminary and well Wikipedia seem to be in agreement. What is debated is what the gospels mean, and yes, there is very wide disagreement between fundamentalist and evangelical Christians who see the inerrant hand of God everywhere, and the mainline churches, who try to understand the gospels in terms of the time period written.

        This is in fact very important for Jewish readers of Mondoweiss to understand, as the beginnings and justifications of Christian Anti-Semitism are rooted in both a time and a place. Biblical justifications for present politics and action (stuff I don’t ascribe to but make efforts to comprehend) need to be unpacked. My post was written for either secular folks or folks on the religious left or center. Thanks

      • RoHa
        RoHa on April 12, 2019, 2:55 am

        I would certainly agree that old Ecclesiastes (1:9) often seems to be right.

        I don’t set a lot of store by consensus about matters of fact. From what I have read, comparatively late dates were the norm in the early part of the 20th century, and earlier dates in the later part. And current rethinking the dates of some manuscripts (e.g. P52) weakens the cases for the earlier dates.

        But my point is that no-one really knows.

      • DaBakr
        DaBakr on April 13, 2019, 12:52 am

        @y

        unbelievably i find this particualr comment to be devoid of any conspiracy and reasonable. but i doubt that as early as 66-70 the “vast majority” of peasants where christian. but in general-the revolt was lead by radical rebels who imposed great cruelty on those jewish and christians who did not comply within jerusalem and others who wanted no part of the revolt. there are non ‘biblical’ accounts by jewish, greek and roman historians and josephus , the ex-warrior, in particular thought the rebels were insane. I suppose somebody could make the same parallel today but there is no more Roman Empire and the US is hardly like the Romans as much as folks love to compare the two dissimilar ’empires’ that simply share a few ‘trends’ in common.

      • YoniFalic
        YoniFalic on April 13, 2019, 1:41 pm

        The Bar Kochba Rebellion took place from 132-135 CE, and by that time period most of the Judean peasantry seems to have been practicing Judean Christianity, which differed greatly from later Constantinian Christianity and probably differed little from Islam, in which Jesus is the Messiah but neither a divinity nor one aspect of a trinity.

  5. amigo
    amigo on April 10, 2019, 5:17 pm

    I received an e mail from BDS today asking for a donation.I already support a few other pro Palestinian orgs and reluctantly declined.

    This latest move by airb&b has changed my mind.Benjamins on the way to you good folks at BDS.

    Up and at them.

  6. DaBakr
    DaBakr on April 11, 2019, 1:06 am

    Lol. Now Airbnb is going to be boycotted by staunch zionists who will never forgive it for the initial decision and boycotted by the bds people as well for its ‘capitulation’. and so-called ‘liberal zionist’ jews who view convenience over principles will breath a sigh of relief that they can stay in the super cool desert style tent bnbs in judea on airbnb . because, obviously, we zionists control the world airbnb will never fully recover from this original blunder and rectification/capitulation (whatever you consider it, its been a boon to other upstart bnb bookers)

  7. Ronald Johnson
    Ronald Johnson on April 11, 2019, 8:52 am

    We have information from an Orthodox website from Brooklyn that AirBnB, never did stop listing rentals in “Samaria and Judea”. It was determined that it would be prejudicial against Jews living in the United States who own rental properties in Judea and Samaria.

    https://collive.com/show_news.rtx?id=55325&alias=airbnb-cancels-anti-jewish-ban

    Note that the argument is very clever. Read for yourself:

    “…But Airbnb never actually removed the listings. And about a week after the decision, Shurat Hadin organized the suit on behalf of a dozen American Jewish families, most of whom own properties in Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria. The suit was filed under the Fair Housing Act, which was meant to prevent discrimination against minorities in the United States. Because Airbnb is based in the United States, it must adhere to the act in all its listings worldwide.

    The plaintiffs claimed that Airbnb was discriminating against them for being Jewish, given that it still allowed listings by Muslims and Christians in Judea and Samaria. [presumably owners of properties that have not yet been seized by Israel – not in settlements.]…”

    “The policy Airbnb announced last November was abject discrimination against Jewish users of the website,” Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the president of Shurat Hadin, said in a statement. “Whatever one’s political view, discrimination based on religious affiliation should never be the solution.”

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