Thursday, October 6th | 11 Tishri 5783

December 25, 2018 9:02 am

AirBDS, the Antisemitic Bed and Breakfast

avatar by Shmuley Boteach


A woman talks on the phone at the Airbnb office headquarters in the SOMA district of San Francisco, California, Aug. 2, 2016. Photo: Reuters / Gabrielle Lurie.

For defenders and lovers of Israel, Airbnb’s partial retraction of their discriminatory policy of de-listing Jewish homes in Judea and Samaria is cause to celebrate. True, the hospitality behemoth did not completely reverse their biased and bigoted attack on Jewish homeowners living in Biblical lands west of the Jordan river. But their humiliating climb-down, caused by ferocious pressure from pro-Israel groups and others, demonstrates that BDS can and must be defeated.

In a Hebrew-language statement released to the Israeli Minister of Tourism, the company conceded that its “policy will not be implemented.” It also promised to “continue its dialogue with the Israeli government.” It was an especially important moment for us at The World Values Networkan organization we founded to spread universal Jewish values and defend Israel in the mainstream media. One of our important programs consists of full-page ads in national publications that call out those who demonize Israel and seek to destroy the world’s only Jewish state with economic boycotts and we have published countless ads thus far.

Many people and organizations, including myself, believe that the BDS movement is antisemitic. In its statement, Airbnb referred to the scandal as an “incredibly complex and emotional issue.”  Was the word “emotional” a nod to BDS’s association with antisemitism?

Some of you reading this piece will disagree. You will say that BDS is not antisemitic. But nothing could be further from the case.

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While nothing can or should be compared to the Holocaust, we must remember that it started with the boycotting of Jewish shops and businesses. BDS is an attempt to annihilate Israel by choking off its economic lifeline. It is an attempt to isolate Israel as a pariah nation that no one does business with. And while it might not look as bloody as a suicide bomb, BDS is foul and disgusting nonetheless, and represents an antisemitic attempt to bully the Jewish state into submission.

Those who join the boycott, whatever their intention, have lent credence to the demonization of Jews and Israel.

From the moment that Airbnb made its hypocritical announcement boycotting Jewish-owned homes on November 19, the policy appeared both ridiculous and unsustainable. Airbnb is a corporation that promises its customers that they can travel anywhere. That’s a promise that can only be kept if you actually have a presence just about anywhere.

And indeed they do.

Airbnb currently lists rentals in an amazing 191 countries, which includes Putin’s RussiaErdogan’s TurkeyMaduro’s VenezuelaMnangagwa’s Zimbabwe, and Castro’s Cuba — despite the fact that all of those regimes have dismal records on human rights. Amazingly, Airbnb even operates in Myanmar, whose government jails any journalists who report on the exodus of the country’s Rohinyga Muslim minority after a state-funded military campaign of mass-killings, sexual violence, and widespread arson.

Because only the Jewish settlements within Judea and Samaria were penalized by Airbnb, they clearly chose to discriminate against the Jewish state, and within that state, against the Jews alone.

Should you argue that Airbnb’s initial decision was connected to the uniqueness of a supposed “occupation,” their hypocrisy is just as easily apparent. The company operates in Turkish-occupied Cyprus, Chinese-occupied Tibet, and Russian-occupied sectors of Georgia.

When I first heard the news of Airbnb’s bigoted policy of singling out Jews for geo-political discrimination, I felt excruciating disappointment. Here was a company that I used all the time and — aside from a few mishaps — generally appreciated. They were also a company that mattered; a global tech behemoth that millions of people use to supplement their income or see more of the world. To see them fall into the blinding grip of a movement that seeks the economic destruction of the Jewish state was demoralizing.

Is this, I asked myself, the story of the Jewish people? A story of discrimination and persecution, repeated time and again throughout the generations?

It occurs to me now that this — Israel’s allies taking on a $30 billion tech behemoth — was the real Jewish story. This was the story of Moses and Pharaoh. This was the battle of David and Goliath. Of Samson and, yes, of Hanukkah and the Maccabees. As we say on the Festival of Lights, “The many were delivered into the hands of the few. … As it was in their day, so is it to be repeated in our own time.”

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international bestselling author of 30 books, including his most recent, The Israel Warrior. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

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