Airbnb 'must withdraw' listings in illegal Israeli settlements ahead of public offering: Amnesty

Airbnb 'must withdraw' listings in illegal Israeli settlements ahead of public offering: Amnesty
As Airbnb shares are expected to make their debut on Thursday, Amnesty International is calling on the US-based company to withdraw accommodation listings in illegal settlements.
3 min read
10 December, 2020
Over 600,000 Israeli Jews live in settlements in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem [Getty]
Online accomodation company Airbnb must withdraw listings of rental properties in occupied Palestinian territories, Amnesty International said in a statement released on Thursday.

According to the rights watchdog, Airbnb has around 200 properties for rent in illegal Israeli settlements – considered by most of the international community to be in violation of international law.

Airbnb has said it would remove listings in Israeli settlements, but later revised it's decision.

Amnesty is now urging the San Fransisco-headquartered company to remove the rental options before it becomes a publicly-listed company, after filing Initial Public Offering (IPO) documents in the US.

"These settlements are a war crime under international law. Airbnb needs to do right by future investors and stop benefiting from illegal settlements built on stolen Palestinian land in the Occupied Palestinian Territories," Saleh Higazi, Amnesty International's deputy regional director for Middle East and North Africa, was quoted as saying.

"Shamefully, Airbnb has been promoting and benefiting from a situation that is a root cause of the systematic human rights violations faced by millions of Palestinians on a daily basis," he added.

Amnesty has also raised concerns over the company's transparency regarding its operations in illegal settlements.

Airbnb's registration statement with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) ahead of the IPO made no mention of those business operations, Amnesty International said.

Airbnb stock is expected to be available for purchased by investment and pension funds across the world.

The call to withdraw listings follows a report by Amnesty released last year which documented how Airbnb, along with other online accommodation booking companies, were fuelling "systematic human rights violations against Palestinians by listing hundreds of rooms and activities in Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land, including East Jerusalem".

Israel has occupied the West Bank illegally since 1967, and commits various abuses against Palestinian civilians, human rights groups say.

More than 600,000 Israeli Jews live in around 250 settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, many guarded by military checkpoints.

Read also: Obama suggests bullying campaign by pro-Israel lobby in new memoir

Washington currently does not consider settlements a violation of international law, after incumbent US President Donald Trump last year said he backed Israel's "right" to build settlements in the Palestinian territories and shunned Washington's previous view that they were inconsistent with international law. 

But Palestinians, who have made subsequent calls to end the illegal occupation, hope the administration of President-elect Joe Biden will take a different stance.

"No company should be party to human rights abuse and until Airbnb ends its business relationship with the Israeli settlements it will be deeply compromised," Higazi said.

Reports published late on Wednesday said Airbnb Inc. pulled off one of the largest initial public offerings of 2020, pricing its initial public offering at $68 a share. At its IPO price, Airbnb is reportedly expected to raise at least $3.5 billion with an initial market capitalisation of over $40 billion.

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