The U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights recently reported that after years of controversy, Airbnb will remove all home-sharing lists – roughly 200 – in illegal Israeli settlements built on occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank.
According to a blog post, Airbnb said they have developed a five-part checklist to evaluate how it handles listing in occupied territories and based off that checklist, they “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.”
“This is an incredible victory! We’ve been working to pressure Airbnb with a coalition of human rights groups and to see this corporation delist properties from Israeli settlements is huge.” said Granate Kim, Communications Director from Jewish Voice for Peace.
The announcement comes after years of sustained advocacy from a coalition of groups known as the StolenHomes Coalition – which included organizations like SumOfUs, CODEPINK, American Muslims for Palestine, the U.S. Palestinian Community Network, the U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights, Friends of Sabeel North America, Up Lift and Jewish Voice for Peace. More than 150,000 people from around the world joined onto a petition urging Airbnb to stop listing vacation rentals in Israeli settlements built on stolen Palestinian land and deemed illegal under international law. Thousands of people also left reviews on a microsite parodying Airbnb rental listings and calling attention to the the fact that the vacation rental company continues to list Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
“There’s no delicate way to say this: for years, Airbnb has profited from rental suites built on top of the ruins of Palestinian lives and livelihoods.” explained Angus Wong , Campaign Manager from SumOfUs.org. “While it is good that Airbnb finally recognized the illegal nature of these listings and pulled them from their website – this decision took way too long. By listing these stolen homes for years, Airbnb directly helped Israeli settlers legitimize their occupation of stolen Palestinian land, contributing to the Israeli government’s decades-long policies of occupation, discrimination, and dispossession. We will be monitoring Airbnb to make sure that no more illegal rental properties built on Palestinian land are listed on the site – and urge Airbnb to take steps to make amends to the Palestinian people by donating profits from these illegal listings to Palestinian organizations working to provide services to people amidst the Israeli occupation.”
Coalition members held a protest at Airbnb’s European HQ’s in Ireland, and in other cities around the world. Coalition members also called on Fidelity Investments, one of Airbnb’s largest owners, to push the company to stop the illegal rentals and released a video campaign called We Can’t Live There. So Don’t Go There, featuring Palestinians speaking directly to Airbnb’s new marketing campaign Don’t Go There. Live There, and urging potential travelers not to rent vacation homes in settlements, which are often not clearly identified as such in the website’s listings.
“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. We took to the streets, used social and traditional media, and disrupted Airbnb events – all to have our voices heard that Palestinians deserve to live with freedom, dignity, and equality,” said Ariel Gold National co-ordinator, from CODEPINK. “We thank Airbnb for getting on the right side of history on this issue and pledge to continue our work for Palestinian rights.”
According to international law and official U.S. policy, Israeli settlements in the West Bank are illegal. The Israeli settlement enterprise is part of a decades-old military occupation that has confiscated 42% of Palestinian land in the West Bank for settlement construction, resulting in the loss of freedom of movement and other severe human rights abuses against the Palestinian people.
“The U.S. Palestinian Community Network (USPCN) celebrates the decision by Airbnb to finally act on its stated values of inclusiveness and anti-discrimination,” said Hatem Abudayyeh, National Coordinating Committee member of USPCN, “especially since Israeli settlement listings are the exact opposite of these principles. “They represent exclusive, militarized ethnic enclaves, illegal under international law, that Airbnb helped normalize as tourist destinations. For visitors to Palestine, we hope Airbnb rentals continue to be an important avenue for our people in Occupied Palestine to showcase their hospitality and history. We are happy now that they can do so without the shadow of colonialism as competition.”
In 2016, the Associated Press reported that Airbnb had been allowing Israeli settlers in the West Bank to list their homes as “in Israel” with no mention that they are on occupied Palestinian land. In addition to misleading potential renters and aiding the Israeli government in laying permanent claim to all the land under its control, some of the proprietors have explicitly discriminated against people with Arab or Palestinian names, in direct violation of Airbnb’s stated policies.
“Airbnb’s decision today to remove listings from illegal, Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank is proof that support for Israel’s separate-and-unequal apartheid regime is becoming more and more untenable. Airbnb’s decision to stand on the right side of history is a direct result of a sustained grassroots campaign led by those working in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice, and equality. Once again, in the spirit of the campaigns to end apartheid in South Africa and Jim Crow in the South, people power leads to social justice!” added Ramah Kudaimi, Director of Grassroots Organizing, U.S. Campaign for Palestinian Rights. “We will be looking to Airbnb to demonstrate its commitment to following through on their statement. This moment underscores the importance of continuing to push boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaigns that hold Israel and all institutions profiting from its oppression of the Palestinian people accountable until freedom, justice, and equality is achieved.”
A Human Rights Watch report published in January of 2016 stated that businesses should withdraw from the settlements to end their complicity in an inherently unlawful and abusive system that violates the rights of Palestinians. That same month, Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, sent a letter to Airbnb chief executive Brian Chesky warning that Airbnb is effectively promoting the illegal Israeli colonization of occupied land.
“This is a big win, not only because it represents a public will for ethical and just relations in the international community, but also because the stakes are high. At FOSNA we are especially pleased about the implications this has for our work pushing for morally responsible Christian trips to the holy land. It is so important that spiritual pilgrimages support justice for Palestinian people. We urge the UN human rights commission to release the full list of companies operating in the settlements so that we can encourage remaining complicit corporations to make the same principled decision.”