Airbnb faces increasing pressure over West Bank settlement listings
Airbnb is now the target of an activist campaign that seeks to pressure the online accommodations rental giant to stop listing illegal Israeli settlement homes on its website.
A search for accommodations in “Israel” turns up results that are not located within the internationally recognized borders of Israel, but rather, located in Jewish-only settlements like Ariel and Tekoa. Five human rights and peace organizations— American Muslims for Palestine, CODEPINK, Jewish Voice for Peace, the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, and the U.S. Palestinian Community Network—have signed on to the Stolen Homes campaign.
In a petition, the groups point out that, “Airbnb’s anti-discrimination policy states that they prohibit listings that promote racism, discrimination, or harm to individuals or groups, and require all users to comply with local laws. Yet, listing vacation rentals in illegal settlements promotes structural discrimination, theft of Palestinians’ land, and direct violations of international law.”
Airbnb declined to comment for this article and has not responded to the campaign, other than a statement by its spokesperson Nick Papas, which reads: “We follow laws and regulations on where we can do business, and investigate concerns raised about specific listings.”
The military occupation and expansion of ethnically exclusive communities on Palestinian land is a longstanding policy of the Israeli government and considered a war crime under international law. Airbnb, by refusing to address the inconsistency of settlement profiteering with their corporate policy, has placed itself firmly in the crosshairs of not only the specific groups behind the Stolen Homes campaign, but the growing international Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement at large.
BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti told Al Jazeera that the company “is not only legally obliged to immediately exclude all Israeli settlements from its offerings, since Israeli settlements constitute war crimes under international law. It also makes the most business sense for it to do so, as much larger corporations – of the calibre of Orange, Veolia and CRH – have been eventually compelled by BDS campaigning to end their complicity in Israel’s human rights violations after losing massive contracts.”
While the Palestinian National Council (the Palestinian leadership of the BDS movement) has not yet announced a specific plan for a boycott of Airbnb, it’s safe to assume that the company will feel increasing pressure from activists if it fails to take criticism of its business practices seriously. Already, several major media outlets have taken note of the controversy, including The Atlantic and The Guardian. As the backlash against Airbnb continues to mount, the company may be compelled to rethink its accommodation of Israeli apartheid.