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November 19, 2018 1:54 pm

Prominent Israeli Official Calls for Boycott of Airbnb Over Delisting of Settlements

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A general view shows a road leading to the Israeli settlement of Dolev in the West Bank, Feb. 23, 2016. Photo: Reuters / Baz Ratner / File.

A prominent Israeli official is calling for a boycott of Airbnb after the home-renting company announced on Monday it would remove listings in West Bank settlements.

“Airbnb blacklists Jewish apartments in Judea and Samaria — not Palestinian apartments, not apartments in Turkish occupied Cyprus, in Moroccan occupied Sahara, not in Tibet or the Crimea,” Michael Oren — a Kulanu MK and deputy minister in the Prime Minister’s Office who served as Israel’s envoy in Washington, DC, from 2009-2013 — tweeted. “Airbnb’s policy is the very definition of anti-Semitism.  No one should use its services.”

Tourism Minister Yariv Levin — a member of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party — called Airbnb’s decision “discriminatory,” and he ordered ministry staff to formulate a plan to limit the company’s activities in Israel.

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan — also a Likud member — described Airbnb’s move as “submission to the anti-Semitic BDS organizations,” and he charged it was motivated by “political considerations rather than business considerations.”

“I call on the property owners affected by the decision to examine the filing of claims against Airbnb in accordance with the law to prevent harm to the State of Israel through a boycott, and I intend to contact the most senior political officials in the United States to examine whether this decision violates legislation against boycotts in more than 25 states in the United States,” Erdan said.

Social Equality Minister Gila Gamliel (Likud) accused Airbnb of hypocrisy, saying the company “operates in the darkest dictatorships in the world and preaches morality to us.”

The left-wing Israeli NGO Peace Now, on the other hand, praised Airbnb for “distinguishing between sovereign Israel and the occupied territories.”

“International companies are interested in doing business with the State of Israel, but are unwilling to accept the continued military control of millions of Palestinians,” it said. “If the government really wants to eliminate BDS — then it will end the occupation.”

In a statement published earlier on Monday, Airbnb said:

There are conflicting views regarding whether companies should be doing business in the occupied territories that are the subject of historical disputes between Israelis and Palestinians.

US law permits companies like Airbnb to engage in business in these territories. At the same time, 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. Others believe that companies should not withdraw business operations from these areas.

For us, the question centers on the approximately 200 Airbnb listings in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and whether they should be available for rent on our platform. We are most certainly not the experts when it comes to the historical disputes in this region. Our team has wrestled with this issue and we have struggled to come up with the right approach.

In the past, we made clear that we would operate in this area as allowed by law. We did this because we believe that people-to-people travel has considerable value and we want to help bring people together in as many places as possible around the world. We also explained that going forward we would ask questions, listen to experts, seek out our community for their thoughts, and continue to learn.

Since then, we spent considerable time speaking to various experts — including those who have criticized our previous approach — about this matter. As a global platform operating in 191 countries and regions and more than 81,000 cities, we must consider the impact we have and act responsibly. Accordingly, we have developed a framework for evaluating how we should treat listings in occupied territories. When evaluating these types of situations, we will:

  1. Recognize that each situation is unique and requires a case-by-case approach.
  2. Consult with a range of experts and our community of stakeholders.
  3. Assess any potential safety risks for our hosts and guests.
  4. Evaluate whether the existence of listings is contributing to existing human suffering.
  5. Determine whether the existence of listings in the occupied territory has a direct connection to the larger dispute in the region.

When we applied our decision-making framework, 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.

We know that people will disagree with this decision and appreciate their perspective. This is a controversial issue. There are many strong views as it relates to lands that have been the subject of historic and intense disputes between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. Airbnb has deep respect for those views. Our hope is that someday sooner rather than later, a framework is put in place where the entire global community is aligned so there will be a resolution to this historic conflict and a clear path forward for everybody to follow. As of today, this is an aspirational hope. People of goodwill have been seeking this goal for decades but we continue to hope for a durable, lasting peace.

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