The BBC Fails to Address Airbnb’s Anti-Israel Hypocrisy
Despite having already published a report on exactly the same story late the previous evening, on the morning of November 20 the BBC News website published an article titled “Airbnb: Israeli uproar as firm bars West Bank settlements.”
A video embedded into the article also appeared separately on the BBC News website’s Middle East page, under the title “The West Bank homes being dropped from Airbnb.”
In that filmed report from Gush Etzion — where Jews purchased land long before the Jordanian invasion and occupation in 1948 — viewers were told that:
Built on land occupied after the 1967 Six-Day War, the settlements are seen as illegal under international law.
In the written report, readers were similarly told:
Jewish settlements in territory occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this.
Obviously, this story in particular requires full audience understanding of the topic of “settlements” and “international law”; nevertheless, the BBC elected once again to ignore its editorial obligation of “due impartiality” by erasing from view the existence of legal opinions that contradict the BBC’s selected narrative.
BBC editorial guidelines relating to due impartiality on “controversial subjects” state:
When dealing with “controversial subjects,” we must ensure a wide range of significant views and perspectives are given due weight and prominence, particularly when the controversy is active.
The BBC’s standard portrayal of “international law” here obviously does not meet those criteria. It purports to inform audiences what is “illegal,” but does not provide them with sufficient information or access to alternative views in order to enable them to reach their own conclusions and opinions on the issue.
For example, the written report included uncritical amplification of a claim that dovetails with the standard BBC framing of the conflict:
Airbnb said it had made the decision because settlements were “at the core” of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The BBC did not bother to enhance readers’ understanding of the story by pointing out that the conflict predates “settlements” by several decades.
Linking to a report produced by the political NGOs Human Rights Watch and Kerem Navot, which is actually a political campaign focusing exclusively on Jewish Israelis, the written article told readers that:
Human Rights Watch called Airbnb’s decision “a positive step” and urged other tourism companies, such as Booking.com, to follow suit.
In a report released on Tuesday, the New York-based group said “Israelis and foreigners may rent properties in settlements, but Palestinian ID holders are effectively barred.”
It said this was the only example the rights body could find “in which Airbnb hosts have no choice but to discriminate against guests based on national or ethnic origin.”
The BBC did not bother to inform its audiences that Airbnb hosts in a plethora of countries, including Algeria, Malaysia, and Bangladesh would “have no choice but to discriminate against guests based on national or ethnic origin,” because those countries do not allow entry to the holders of Israeli passports.
Hadar Sela is the Managing Editor of BBC Watch, an affiliate of the Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA).