Airbnb to take rentals in Israeli West Bank settlements off website

Elias Hubbard
November 20, 2018

Home-renting company Airbnb has chose to remove rental listings situated in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, addressing growing concerns over illegal activity in the Israeli-occupied land.

"This is not about disputed territories, as Airbnb has listings in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara, Turkish-occupied Cyprus, and more", he said in a statement.

Instead, the announcement by the vacation rental behemoth noted that it "struggled" with the decision and acknowledged it would be controversial. Waleed Assraf, who runs an anti-settlement group for the Palestinian Liberation Organization, was hopeful other companies would follow Airbnb's example, noting "this will contribute to achieving peace".

"It is thanks to the hard work of activists in this coalition and around the world that Airbnb will no longer be profiting from Israeli apartheid in the West Bank", Ariel Gold, national co-director of the anti-war group Codepink, told Sputnik News.

Israel has controlled the West Bank and east Jerusalem since 1967 and has for decades built settlements there seen as illegal by most of the global community.

Kontorovich said Airbnb had been "bullied" by the UN Human Rights Council which, in 2016, mandated the compilation of a blacklist aimed at companies doing business in the West Bank, Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

Protester during interview with Ashton Kutcher at Airbnb Open in Los Angeles.

Airbnb is to remove hundreds of properties located in illegal settlements in the West Bank from its website, following years of pressures by campaigners. It said it had previously allowed listings in Israeli settlements in the West Bank "because we believe that people-to-people travel has considerable value", adding that it had made the latest decision after weighing the issue over time and speaking to experts.

"They've been misled", she said of Airbnb.

According to a 2016 report from Human Rights Watch, "Settlement businesses depend on and benefit from Israel's unlawful confiscation of Palestinian land and other resources, and facilitate the functioning and growth of settlements".

The short-term home rental company said in a press release that it had previously allowed the listings - around 200 - as USA law permitted Airbnb to operate in the disputed territory, but that it had "wrestled with this issue and we have struggled to come up with the right approach".

The United Nations and most world powers consider Israeli settlements on Palestinian land to be illegal.

"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", the group said.

Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin described it as a "disgraceful surrender", while senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called it an "initial positive step".

"Israeli settlements are illegal and are built on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem, and are not 'the subject of historical disputes, '" the department said on Twitter.

Levin described the move as "the most wretched of wretched capitulations to the boycott efforts", making reference to worldwide calls to boycott Israel, most notably the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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