A growing number of people are calling for a boycott of AirBnb, after the house-renting company announced a new policy in the West Bank. On Monday, AirBnB said that it would stop renting out homes in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Human rights group applauded the move, which they said was long-overdue. But the Israeli government is calling the move a “wretched capitulation,” and some Jewish groups in the US are calling on their members to boycott AirBnB.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. AirBnB Says It Had 200 Listings in the West Bank Which Will No Longer Be Available Under the New Policy
AirBnB announced its new West Bank policy in a statement on its website on November 19. The company acknowledged that the decision wouldn’t make everyone happy, saying, “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 says the decision will impact about 200 listings in the Israeli-occupied West Bank. Until Monday, AirBnB offered properties in far-flung Israeli settlements, some of which were considered illegal even by the Israeli government. On Monday, AirBnB said that the West Bank, and the Israeli settlements, are at the “core” of the dispute between Israel and Palestinians. That’s why AirBnB says it’s decided to move its business out. “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 company says.
2. Jewish Groups in the US Called for a Boycott of AirBnB
On Monday, the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles slammed AirBnB’s decision to stop listing properties in the West Bank. The group said that “Jews the world over” should boycott AirBnB. “We don’t expect Airbnb to be geo-political experts, but today’s draconian and unjust move, which only empowers extremists and terrorists, merits only one response — taking our community’s business elsewhere,” Rabbi Marvin Hier, founder and dean of the center, and Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean and director of the center’s Global Social Action Agenda, said in a statement.
On Twitter, there have also been calls for a boycott of AirBnB. One user wrote, “We are frequent #Airbnb users. We don’t want to boycott your company, but if you don’t change your anti-Israel policies ASAP we & many others will have to!” Another social media user asked, “Is it now time to boycott @Airbnb & other corporates imposing politics on its customers?”
And in Israel, Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said he was looking into whether AirBnB’s move had violated any laws. Levin said he also encouraged Israelis with a grievance to sue the company.
3. Some of AirBnB’s West Bank Listings Are Still Available
On Tuesday morning, some of AirBnB’s West Bank listings were still available on the website. The company didn’t immediately respond to Heavy’s request for commment, and it wasn’t clear whether more listings would be taken down in the coming days.
A home in the settlement of Kida, for example, was still available for booking as of November 20. The one-bedroom home goes for $148 a night and offers “spectacular views” of the Jordan valley, according to the listing. The listing does not mention that the home is located in a settlement; it simply says that the home is located “north of Jerusalem.”
A “clean, comfy, convenient” home in the settlement of Modi’in Ilit was also still available on Tuesday morning. The listing said the home’s availability had been updated just two days ago.
The New York Times reports that most of the people who rent AirBnB’s in the West Bank are Israelis, looking for a vacation getaway. But the Times notes that people from Europe, the US, and Asia have also traveled to the West Bank and have stayed in AirBnBs while there.
4. Critics of AirBnB’s New Move Say the Company Is Supposed to Bring People Together, Not Divide Them
Plenty of people are angry about AirBnB’s decision to stop listing homes in the West Bank. Their anger comes for a lot of different sources. Some think that AirBnB, which still offers rentals in other controversial locations like Northern Cyprus, is singling out Israelis. Others say that this is an example of anti-Semitism.
In a blog for the Times of Israel, one writer argued that the new rule was actually going to get in the way of the AirBnB mission. The blogger, Reuven Spolter, said that AirBnB’s presence in the West Bank used to bring people together, with tourists from as far away as Poland getting a taste of settlement life. Now, Spolter says, that won’t be possible any longer.
5. Human Rights Watch Applauded the Move & Says Other Companies Should Also Leave the West Bank
AirBnB decided to leave the West Bank just one day before a 65-page report from Human Rights Watch came out. The report (“Bed and Breakfast on Stolen Land”) slammed AirBnB for listing West Bank properties. Human Rights Watch said that the rental company was helping to prop up the economies of illegal settlements. Human Rights Watch also pointed out that Palestinians are barred from renting properties in the settlements, which means — the group said — that AirBnB is profiting from “discriminatory practices” in the area.
You can read the full report here.
Amnesty International also applauded the move, writing in a tweet that AirBnB had “profited from Palestinian suffering for too long.” The group called on AirBnB to “do more” to repair the damage it had done to Palestinians.