Airbnb ends West Bank listings, upsetting Israel

Moria Shapira Airbnb's apartment owner outside her apartment in Adei Ad outpost north of the Palestinian village of al-Mughayyir near the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah on November 20 2018. Airbnb said that it will remove such listings from its web
Airbnb ends West Bank listings, upsetting Israel
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21 November, 2018

Airbnb has made a decision to take down some 200 listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West bank, the short-term home rental service said Monday.

Oded Revivi, mayor of the West Bank settlement of Efrat and a representative of the umbrella settler council Yesha, described the Airbnb decision as contrary to its mission, as stated on the website, of "help (ing) to bring people together in as many places as possible around the world".

The announcement by Airbnb comes as Human Rights Watch published a report looking at the status of land on which rental properties were built.

The HRW report says that between March and July 2018, Airbnb had listed at least 139 properties in West Bank settlements on its platform, while Booking.com listed 26 such properties as of July.

Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin called Airbnb's move "discriminatory" and ordered his ministry to formulate a retaliatory plan to "limit the company's activities" in Israel, adding that the country would back settlement listers' lawsuits in both Israeli and U.S. courts. It was not clear what this would mean.

But the announcement does not appear to include Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem, which under global law is part of the occupied West Bank conquered by Israel in 1967.

Among the vacation properties available for rent on the site are a number in settlement outposts considered illegal even under Israeli law, some of which are situated on stolen, privately-owned Palestinian land.

In a statement on Monday, Airbnb said it was pulling approximately 200 settlement listings, saying: "We must consider the impact we have and act responsibly". Israel called it a "wretched capitulation" to boycotters.

A road sign points towards an airbnb apartment located in the Esh Kodesh outpost near the Jewish settlement of Shilo and the Palestinian village of Qusra in the occupied West Bank
A road sign points towards an Airbnb apartment located in the Esh Kodesh outpost on the occupied West Bank

He said that "national conflict exist throughout the world and Airbnb will need to explain why they chose a racist political stance against some Israeli citizens".

Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin on Tuesday threatened legal action against Airbnb in the United States and Israel over its move, branding it "hypocritical and disgusting".

In the past, Airbnb has been criticised by activists for allowing such listings and Palestinians have welcomed the move and Israel has called it "shameful".

Airbnb at the time said the US-based firm "respects the laws in force where it operates and investigates the concerns raised on the subject of some listings".

A prominent Israeli official is calling for a boycott of Airbnb after the home-renting company announced on Monday it would.

Having observed that the move hasn't been applied to listings in other disputed areas, former Israeli ambassador Michael Oren called it the "very definition of anti-Semitism" and asked for a boycott of Airbnb's services.

San Francisco-basked Airbnb is eyeing an IPO next year after announcing in February it would not make a public debut this year.

Human Rights Watch said it had been speaking with Airbnb about its West Bank listings for two years, and it urged other companies to follow its example.

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