Israel to turn to US government over Airbnb removal of settlement listings
Israel called it a 'wretched capitulation' to boycotters
Israel is to complain to the US government about Airbnb’s decision to remove listings from West Bank settlements, a cabinet minister said on Tuesday.
The home rental company announced on Monday that they would no longer allow advertisements of homes on the occupied lands that Palestinians seek for any future sovereign state. Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War.
"We will approach the U.S. government because 25 U.S. states have sanctions against American companies that boycott Israel," Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said on Israeli Army Radio.
"In this respect, there is no distinction between this part or that part of the State of Israel," he said, even though the West Bank is not recognised as official Israeli territory.
Much of the international community considers Israel’s settlement outposts in the West Bank to be illegal under international law. Those settlements host around 400,000 Jewish settlers who believe that the West Bank is their biblical homeland and refer to the territory as Judea and Samaria.
Palestinians have welcomed the decision as a “positive step” after years of lobbying to stop the normalisation of tourism in the Israeli settlements.
Airbnb said "many in the global community have stated that companies should not be doing business here (in the occupied territories) because they believe companies should not profit on lands where people have been displaced".
It would now remove 200 listings “in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians”.
The removal of the listings would not include advertised rental homes in East Jerusalem, a territory that Israel also occupied during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. The Palestinians want the territory to be the capital of a future state as it hosts some of the holiest sites in Islam, including the Haram Al Sharif, or Noble Sanctuary.
It will also not cover the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in the same conflict.
Airbnb said it has developed a framework for evaluating how it should treat listings in occupied territories around the world.
"Israel is a special place and our over 22,000 hosts are special people who have welcomed hundreds of thousands of guests to Israel. We understand that this is a hard and complicated issue and we appreciate everyone's perspective," Airbnb's Global Head of Policy and Communications Chris Lehane said in an emailed statement.
Mr Erdan said 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".
Mr Erdan, pointman in Israel's campaign against the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that wants to isolate it over occupation of land Palestinians seek for a state, offered government legal advice to any hosts who want to sue Airbnb.
Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, urged the UN Human Rights Council to release a database of companies "profiting from the Israeli colonial occupation".
Oded Revivi, mayor of the West Bank settlement of Efrat, said Airbnb had violated its own stated mission "to bring people together in as many places as possible around the world".
Israel's Tourism Ministry said it was looking at options, including new taxation, for restricting Airbnb activities throughout Israel.
Airbnb's move came on the eve of the publication of a report by Human Rights Watch on tourist rental listings in Israeli settlements. The New York-based group hailed Airbnb's "important recognition that such listings cant square with its human rights responsibilities".
Airbnb is considering an IPO next year after announcing in February that it would not make a public debut this year.
Updated: November 21, 2018 05:16 PM