Airbnb: Fancy a holiday in an illegal Israeli settlement?

Airbnb: Fancy a holiday in an illegal Israeli settlement?
Popular website is allowing Israeli settlers to advertise properties built illegally on occupied Palestinian land, but Palestinian leaders and activists have pledged to pressure the US-based company to change policy.
2 min read
13 Jan, 2016
Armed Israeli settlers, when not attacking Palestinians, could double up as tour guides [AFP]

If you are looking for an all-inclusive trip to an illegal Jewish settlement in the occupied Palestinian territories but are on a tight budget, why not consider Airbnb for your accomodation?

Some of the rooms offer breathtaking views of the Israeli separation wall, Jewish-only bypass roads and the remnants of Palestinian villages strangled by occupation.

Much of the international community, including the US and the EU, opposes all Israeli settlements built in the occupied Palestinian territory and considers them among the largest obstacles to peace.

But Airbnb apparently doesn't.

Often operating in the grey zone of morality and legality, the new "sharing economy" does not like to pay much attention to silly things like international law, settler-colonialism and apartheid states.

Dozens of Jewish settlers are advertising their homes for rent in a number of locations across the West Bank on the popular "peer-to-peer" accomodation listing site.

Husam Zomlot, ambassador at large for the Palestinian government, said it was seeking an immediate change of policy from the company.

"Certainly we will take further action. This is strikingly illegal," he told AFP, accusing the company of "illegally profiting from occupation".

"Such acts by international firms and the private sector have been a main contributor to the continuity and escalation of the situation."

US-based Airbnb declined AFP an interview, providing only a short statement.

"We follow laws and regulations on where we can do business and investigate concerns raised about specific listings," it said.

One listing in the settlement of Tekoa in the southern West Bank highlights that it is 15 minutes from Jerusalem and offers views of the "spectacular Judea desert landscape," the Israeli word for part of the West Bank.

Others stressed the tranquility of the area, while always listing their location as Israel.

Omar Barghouti, Palestinian rights activist and co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign which pushes for an economic boycott of Israel, called on the company to change policy.

"Airbnb can and should immediately exclude all Israeli settlements from its offerings as a significant first step towards complying with its human rights obligations under international law," he said.

Israel seized the West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Six-Day War.

About 380,000 Israelis live in 135 West Bank settlements, with another 200,000 in east Jerusalem.

With agencies.