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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 15 December 2018

Airbnb to remove West Bank settlement rental listings

Airbnb is to remove hundreds of properties located in illegal settlements in the West Bank from its website, after years of pressure by campaigners.

“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 property rental company on Monday said.

“Our hope is that some day sooner rather than later, a framework is put in place where the entire global community is aligned so there will be a resolution to this historic conflict and a clear path forward for everybody to follow.”

The company said that it would affect about 200 listings.

The decision came on the eve of the publication of a 65-page report by Human Rights Watch on the dangers of Airbnb doing business in the settlements.

Chris Doyle director of the Council for Arab-British Understanding (Caabu) said that other companies doing business in the settlements should take note. "This is a welcome decision from Airbnb. No company should be doing business with Israeli settlements as it undermines international law as well as chances for peace," Mr Doyle said. "Other companies must follow suit."

Palestinian officials welcomed the decision, but warned it did not go far enough. Lead Palestinian negotiator Dr Saeb Erekat said: "While we believe that this an initial positive step, it would have been crucial for Airbnb to follow the position of international law that Israel is the occupying power and that Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem, are illegal and constitute war crimes.

"We reiterate our call upon the UN Human Rights Council to release the database of companies profiting from the Israeli colonial occupation. Israeli settlements are not just an obstacle to peace but defy the very definition of peace," Dr Erekat said.

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Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Minister of Strategic Affairs, said the decision was "a surrender to the antisemitic BDS organisations".

There are approximately 400,000 Jewish settlers living in illegal settlements in the West Bank, and as many as 200,000 in East Jerusalem.

An investigation by +972 Mag in 2016 found that those booking rentals through the site would have no indication they were browsing illegally built properties on Palestinian land. The investigation also uncovered indications of discrimination when it came to renting the properties concerned to people of Palestinian descent.