Published: Tue, November 20, 2018
Global News | By Stacy Ballard

Airbnb cuts listings in Israeli West Bank settlements

Airbnb cuts listings in Israeli West Bank settlements

Airbnb has announced that it will delist rental properties located in Israeli-occupied West Bank settlements following criticisms that accused the company off profiting off contested territory.

Airbnb has previously been criticised by Palestinian officials and human rights campaigners for allowing listings of homes to rent in Israeli settlements on the occupied West Bank.

The Palestine Liberation Organisation's (PLO) secretary-general has said it is "crucial for Airbnb to follow the position of worldwide law that Israel is the occupying power and that Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem, are illegal and constitute war crimes".

The US-based company said it now has about 200 listings in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and made its decision after speaking to "various experts", including critics of Airbnb's listings in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Israel captured the West Bank from Jordanian forces in 1967 and continues to control and occupy the area, although Palestinians have limited self-rule over small enclaves.

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Airbnb, which says it operates in 191 countries, will face a backlash from within Israel and from its worldwide backers, who have fiercely fought attempts to delegitimise Israel's control of the West Bank.

Oded Revivi, mayor of the West Bank settlement of Efrat and a representative of the umbrella settler council Yesha, said Airbnb's decision was contrary to the company's stated mission of helping "to bring people together in as many places as possible around the world".

The decision comes as Airbnb had been widely criticized by rights groups and activists ever since reports first revealed in 2016, that the company was listing the rentals as being part of Israeli territories and not Palestine. "We urge other companies to follow suit", Ganesan said.

On Monday afternoon, several listings in Israeli settlements were still available on Airbnb's website, MEE found.

Airbnb's decision also does not appear to apply to the Golan Heights, which Israel annexed in 1981 in a move that was not recognized internationally, the Times of Israel reported. "But once the fallout dies down, the impact Airbnb's new policy will have on the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict will be negligible", Magid stressed.

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Airbnb said Monday it will remove such listings, just ahead of the release of a Human Rights Watch report criticising the inclusion of settlements. I call on Israelis to come and have a vacation in Judea and Samaria.

Human Rights Watch praised the decision, calling it a "breakthrough".

Tourism minister Yariv Levin decried the move as "the most wretched of wretched capitulations to the boycott efforts" while strategic affairs minister Gilad Erdan called on affected hosts to take Airbnb to court in accordance with Israel's anti-boycott law.

Michael Oren, former Israeli ambassador to the USA and current deputy minister in PM Netanyahu's office, called for a revenge boycott, deeming AirBnB's policy "the very definition of anti-Semitism".

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