Recently, Airbnb announced its removal of listings of properties in Jewish settlements on occupied Palestinian land. Although the site lists Palestinian territories (West Bank and Gaza) as separate from Israel, some properties in Efrat, Ma’ale Rehavam and Tekou are listed in Israel itself. These properties are beyond the “green line.” The 1949 Armistice Agreement between Israel, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria established this line, which holds weight internationally.
In 2016, Human Rights Watch released a report detailing how companies that coordinate operations with Israeli settlements exacerbate human rights violations. These corporations profit off an unlawful system that exploits and undermines the rights of Palestinians. Given the international consensus surrounding this issue, Airbnb’s decision should not be seen as controversial.
Unfortunately, and unsurprisingly, some people did not see this as a human rights victory. Beverly Hills’ Mayor Julian Gold called the actions “deplorable” and issued a joint proclamation with the City Council condemning Airbnb’s decision. Mayor Gold and the City Council also called for a boycott of Airbnb until they “correct this act of disrespect to the land of Israel.” The statement also decried Airbnb’s actions as anti-Semitic. Once again, taking a stand against inhumane Israeli policies which encroach upon the rights of Palestinians is painted as anti-Semitic.
Let’s be clear: companies that stand up to human rights abuses committed by the Israeli government against the Palestinian people are not anti-Semitic. Illegal settlements on Palestinian land cannot be tolerated. People are forcibly removed from their homes to allow for these illegal Israeli settlements. Companies should not profit from such blatant violations of international law and human rights.
Airbnb’s press release acknowledged that U.S. law allows companies to engage in business within these territories, and that there’s a global dialogue about the legitimacy of these practices. Ultimately, the company chose to remove 200 listings in the occupied West Bank “that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.” Near the end of the press release, they expressed that this decision was not a boycott of Israel nor was it an endorsement of the BDS movement. However, their press release expressly stated that these listings “contribut[e] to existing human suffering” and that they have “a direct connection to the larger dispute in the region.” They may not endorse the BDS movement, but Airbnb shares many of the same sentiments on the issue.
As to be expected, the Israeli government was less than enthusiastic about Airbnb’s decision. At a press conference in Jerusalem, Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan called “on all those who support Israel and oppose discriminatory boycotts […] to cease using Airbnb and [to] turn to other services.” Once again, the narrative that supporting international law and common decency was used to defame opponents of Israeli policies. An illogical and inaccurate link to anti-Semitism which bullies individuals and corporations of conscious from standing up and challenging illegal Israeli settlements, once again, reared its ugly head.
If Airbnb continued to allow these listings, then they would be supporting discriminatory practices against the Palestinian people which Israel encourages and promotes under the warped guise of Israeli and Jewish rights.
Over 700,000 Jewish settlers reside in 196 Israeli-approved settlements. More than 200 settlers live on unsanctioned outposts in the West Bank. International law views the West Bank and East Jerusalem as occupied territories and considers all Jewish settlements to be illegal. Airbnb’s decision to remove listings in illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land is in-line with international law. If Airbnb continued to allow these listings, then they would be supporting discriminatory practices against the Palestinian people which Israel encourages and promotes under the warped guise of Israeli and Jewish rights. Mayor Gold and Erdan are dangerously propagating a myth that these illegal settlers are somehow the victims, and that their right to conduct private business is being encroached upon.
Palestinian lives matter. Companies and individuals who acknowledge this most basic aspect of humanity should not be shunned nor silenced. Mayor Gold, the Beverly Hills’ City Council, and Erdan are wrong to equate Airbnb’s decision with anti-Semitism. For them to say that Airbnb disrespects Israeli land is preposterous and comical. Airbnb should be applauded for putting people over profits. Human rights and international law should always supersede any monetary gain.