The company behind the popular online marketplace for renting your home, Airbnb, decided on Monday to remove rental listings from homes in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The United Nations and most world powers consider Israeli settlements on Palestinian land to be illegal.
“US law permits companies like Airbnb to engage in business in these territories,” the company said in a statement. “At the same time, many in the global community have stated that companies should not do business here because they believe companies should not profit on lands where people have been displaced.”
Airbnb’s practice of allowing listings in the occupied West Bank has been a controversial issue for years, and advocates for Palestinians have decried the practice. Its discontinuation is seen widely as a win for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which seeks to inspire boycotts against the state of Israel and Israeli companies that profit off of occupied territories.
According to a 2016 report from Human Rights Watch, “Settlement businesses depend on and benefit from Israel’s unlawful confiscation of Palestinian land and other resources, and facilitate the functioning and growth of settlements.”
“It is thanks to the hard work of activists in this coalition and around the world that Airbnb will no longer be profiting from Israeli apartheid in the West Bank,” Ariel Gold, national co-director of the anti-war group Codepink, told Sputnik News. “Israeli settlements are not only illegal under international law, but they contribute directly to the daily human rights abuses Palestinians face.”
The Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) wrote to Airbnb Chief Executive Officer Brian Chesky in January, 2016, requesting that Airbnb “investigate its undertakings in the West Bank and end its operations in illegal Israeli settlements, in line with international law and regulations.”
“The Israeli settlement-industrial complex is the crux of the illegal colonization of Palestine and constitutes a grave breach of international law, specifically the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court,” PLO Secretary General Dr. Saeb Erekat wrote at the time.
“Palestinians on the ground spoke out about how Airbnb was affecting them by supporting settlements, and as international solidarity activists, we took to the streets, used social and traditional media and disrupted Airbnb events across the US — all to have our voices heard that Palestinians deserve to live with freedom, dignity and equality,” Gold said.
“We thank Airbnb for getting on the right side of history on this issue and pledge to continue our work for Palestinian rights,” she added.
Now that Airbnb, a company valued at $31 billion in 2017, has decided to ban rentals in the area, Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan has called on former hosts on the platform to sue the company in accordance with the country’s laws banning boycotts.
He also vowed to complain to senior officials in the United States and ask them to check if Airbnb’s move violates laws against boycotting Israel that “exist in over 25 states.”
Erdan called Airbnb’s decision “racist.”
Since Israel captured large swathes of Palestinian territory in the 1967 war, more than 600,000 Israelis have moved into settlements on seized land, according to Amnesty International.