Airbnb will pull property listings in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, prompting a political backlash in Jerusalem. The vacation rental firm had come under criticism for failing to mention that dozens of homes listed as being in Israel, are actually West Bank settlements considered illegal by the vast majority of the world’s nations. Some are even forbidden under law in Israel, which captured much of the land during the Six Day War of 1967.
“We are most certainly not the experts when it comes to the historical disputes in this region,” the company announced in a statement released yesterday. “Our team has wrestled with this issue and we have struggled to come up with the right approach.
“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,” the statement added.
The move, which affects around 200 West Bank properties, has come under predictable fire from government officials in Jerusalem. Israeli tourism minister Yariv Levin called the decision “a disgraceful surrender”, presumably to rights groups and BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) proponents, the latter of which hope to economically throttle Israel to the negotiating table with Palestinian authorities.
“We will approach the US government because 25 US states have sanctions against American companies that boycott Israel,” strategic affairs minister Gilad Erdan announced on Israeli Army Radio.
The situation was first brought to light by Israeli magazines 972 and Local Call, which launched the #StolenHomes Twitter campaign to put pressure on San Francisco-based Airbnb. “The 2016 investigation also found that many property owners were discriminating by refusing to rent to prospective Arab guests, which violates company policy,” added 972 deputy editor Edo Konrad in a story published yesterday.
Amid calls of antisemitism across social media, many in Israel have questioned why Airbnb has not applied similar stringency to homes in other conflict-affected parts of the world. Airbnb “will have to explain why it is taking this discriminatory and racist line here in particular and not in other conflict zones in the world,” added Erdan.
At time of publishing, Red Herring located Airbnb properties in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara, Turkish-occupied Cyprus and Russian-occupied Abkhazia. The company does not list any homes in Crimea, which was annexed by Moscow in 2014.