The intersection of technology and politics has embroiled another technology giant – this time it is short-term home rental platform Airbnb. Airbnb announced that it will remove listings of rentals in the Israeli settlements on West Bank land, saying they are "at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians."
In a press release Airbnb said the decision would affect about 200 rental listings. "We are most certainly not the experts when it comes to the historical disputes in this region. Our team has wrestled with this issue and we have struggled to come up with the right approach," the statement said.
"We concluded that we should remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians. Our hope is that someday sooner rather than later, a framework is put in place where the entire global community is aligned so there will be a resolution to this historic conflict and a clear path forward for everybody to follow.”
Palestinians and their supporters had asked Airbnb to de-list the settlements almost three years ago, when the platform was taking off. Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 war and the Israeli government has allowed settlements of Israeli Jews in occupied territory. These settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem are considered a violation under international law, as reaffirmed in UN Security Council resolution 2334, as well as one of the most contentious factors between Israel and Palestine. Waleed Assraf, head of a Palestinian anti-settlement group run by the Palestine Liberation Organisation, welcomed Airbnb’s decision. He told Reuters, “this will contribute to achieving peace”.
The Israeli government has never acceded to the international community’s description of West Bank being Palestinian territory and insists the status of the West Bank is ambiguous under international law.
The Israeli government was quick to respond to Airbnb’s decision, calling it “the most wretched of wretched capitulations to the boycott efforts.” There is a global movement that calls for boycott of Israeli companies for its actions against Palestinians.
Israeli tourism minister Yariv Levin says the government will lobby Airbnb to overturn the decision and if not then seek compensation for those affected. Yariv Levin told TheMarker, “First, we have turned to the management of the company, demanding that the decision be canceled. We will help apartment owners to file claims in the United States in order to reach a situation that at least the company will have to compensate them for the damage it causes them,” he said.
Airbnb is hugely popular in Israel, with its biggest city Tel Aviv listing an estimated 9,000 properties.