Stolen Homes Coalition targets Airbnb, Fidelity Investments
The Stolen Homes Coalition’s campaign demanded Airbnb stop listing rentals in Israeli settlements, during a Day of Action on June 2. Rallies targeting Airbnb and its investors were held in 18 cities in the U.S. and abroad.
The home-sharing service reportedly allows Israeli settlers to list their properties without mentioning that they are located on occupied Palestinian land. Organizations, including U.S. campaign to end the Israeli Occupation, Jewish Voice for Peace, American Muslims for Palestine, CODEPINK, U.S. Palestinian Community Network, and Friends of Sabeel North America formed the coalition to pressure Airbnb to remove such rentals from its listings.
“All of our organizations including CODEPINK are very concerned with the settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, for a number of reasons, beginning with the settlements being in violation of international law, as well as what these settlements do to really prevent any continuity between different Palestinian cities and impede freedom of movement for Palestinians, as well as prevent just solutions to the conflict being able to be achieved,” CODEPINK organizer Ariel Gold said.
The coalition started a petition targeting Airbnb in January that has garnered over 150,000 signatures.
“There’s no delicate way to say this: Airbnb’s rental suites are literally built on the rubble of stolen homes, orchards and fields, and displaced communities and families,” the petition reads.
In March, the coalition delivered the petition with over 140,000 signatures to Airbnb offices. However, Gold said that Airbnb never responded, which lead the coalition to focus their attention on organizations with influence over Airbnb.
Friday’s actions specifically targeted Fidelity Investments, a major Airbnb investor. Rallies were held outside Fidelity offices in cities including Chicago, Washington D.C., and Los Angeles. According to Gold, the purpose of the rallies were to request that Fidelity “use its unique position as a major investor to apply pressure and to influence Airbnb to do the right thing and abide by international law.”
One rally was held outside of Fidelity’s corporate headquarters in Boston. According to Gold, CODEPINK attempted to speak with Fidelity CEO Abigail Johnson prior to the Day of Action.
“I called the office, and requested an appointment to meet Johnson, in order to deliver the petition to her in person and to talk about why we were not only at the Boston office, but also offices across the country, and in fact, across the world,” said Gold. “So I called to see if we could get an appointment to meet with her and was told quite clearly that they were declining our request for a meeting and so it really left us with no other choice but to be outside the office.”
At the end of the rally in Boston, demonstrators handed over a box of printed signatures to Fidelity employees, although they were not allowed to enter the building.
Demonstrations against Airbnb were also held in Dublin, Paris, and Palestine. The Stolen Homes coalition hopes that pressure from the international community will force Airbnb to change their policy regarding properties in Israeli settlements.
Activists also hope that Airbnb will be prompted to make these changes soon, due to the UN announcement last month that it will create a database of companies implicit in Israel’s settlements.
“I believe that we’re going to be able to have the impact on them, to have them leave the settlements,” said Gold “At this point it’s really a question of time, and we’d like to see them do so before the UN database comes out.”
The Day of Action was also held in solidarity with anti-gentrification activists, who have been protesting Airbnb across the country. Activists say that Airbnb leads to a decrease in affordable house because property owners prefer renting their properties to tourists rather individuals looking for permanent housing.