'History will remember': Palestinians celebrate Airbnb ruling to end Israeli settlement listings

'History will remember': Palestinians celebrate Airbnb ruling to end Israeli settlement listings
Palestinian activists have welcomed Airbnb's decision to stop operating in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, urging more companies to follow suit.
3 min read
20 November, 2018
Airbnb has some 200 accommodation listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank [Getty]

Airbnb's decision to stop listing rentals in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank has been hailed by Palestinians as a victory for human rights.

After a tireless campaign from rights groups and journalists, the holiday rental giant released a statement on Monday that it would pull out some 200 accomodation listings inside Israeli settlements.

These housing projects on occupied Palestinian land violate international law and represent a major obstacle to the peace process, activists say.

The move came ahead of the publication of a comprehensive report by Human Rights Watch (HRW), titled "Bed and Breakfast on Stolen Land", which severely condemned the practice. Campaign groups are now calling on sites such as booking.com to end their listings in settlements in the occupaied territories.

"Thank you @airbnb for supporting my human rights. Israeli settlers attack me daily and steak my land and prevent me from walking on my own streets. You have taken a big action today for justice and history will remember," tweeted Hebron-based activist Issa Amro.

Diana Buttu, a Palestinian-Canadian lawyer and former spokesperson for the Palestinian Liberation Organisation (PLO), emphasised the importance of the boycott movement victories such as this.

"AirBNB did the right thing. As someone who lives here I can attest that Israel will never change unless it is shown that it's actions are wrong. #BDS" she tweeted.

"Airbnb maintained a listing in the illegal Israeli settlement of Khavat Gilad - where armed settlers threatened to shoot me for going on a walk. Glad they are getting the message that the world doesn't think it's OK to steal land."

Palestinian-American commentator and director of the US Campaign for Palestinian Rights Yousef Munayyer also celebrated the move.

"Big Boycott victory! After a long campaign of organizing against @Airbnb's profiteering on stolen Palestinian land the company will stop listing properties in Israeli settlements!!!" he tweeted.

Former chief negotiator for the PLO Saeb Erekat released a statement demanding further action on companies operating in settlements in the occupied West Bank.

"While we believe that this is an initial positive step, it would have been crucial for Airbnb to follow the position of international law that Israel is the occupying power and that Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem, are illegal and constitute war crimes."

"We reiterate our call upon the UN Human Rights Council to release the database of companies profiting from the Israeli colonial occupation. Israeli settlements are not just an obstacle to peace but defy the very definition of peace," the statement added.

Airbnb's statement, released on Monday, defending its decision, following criticism from Israel supporters.

"There are conflicting views regarding whether companies should be doing business in the occupied territories that are the subject of historical disputes between Israelis and Palestinians," the Airbnb statement said.

"In the past, we made clear that we would operate in this area as allowed by law. We did this because we believe that people-to-people travel has considerable value and we want to help bring people together in as many places as possible around the world," the statement continued.

"Since then, we spent considerable time speaking to various experts. We know that people will disagree with this decision and appreciate their perspective."

Airbnb said that as part of their decision-making framework, they "evaluate whether the existence of listings is contributing to existing human suffering" and "determine whether the existence of listings in the occupied territory has a direct connection to the larger dispute in the region".

More than 600,000 settlers live among 2.9 million Palestinians in the West Bank and annexed east Jerusalem.

As a financial incentive for the expansion of settlements, the average settler receives three times more in public subsidies than a resident of Israel within its pre-1967 borders, or Green Line.