Florida governor hits hard at Airbnb over Judea and Samaria boycott

Gov. Ron DeSantis declares that the Airbnb policy against Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria is anti-Semitic. 

By David Jablinowitz, World Israel News

Newly-inaugurated Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis warned Tuesday that Airbnb will face sanctions in his state in response to the company’s decision not to list Israeli properties in Judea and Samaria. The governor argued that Airbnb’s policy was discriminatory and may violate a state law that prohibits Florida from doing business with companies that boycott Israel.

Israeli officials have called on U.S. states to take action, and Illinois became the first to do so in December.

DeSantis said that Florida’s State Board of Administration is preparing to present findings at the end of the month on whether the popular tourism service should be placed on a state list of companies which boycott Israel. Before becoming governor, DeSantis was known for his strongly pro-Israel stance serving in the U.S. House of Representatives. While still a member of Congress, DeSantis attended the opening of the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem last May.

DeSantis said he hoped that the company, which serves as a home-sharing platform, would solve the problem itself by reversing its recently-adopted Judea and Samaria policy, but announced that he was already instituting a directive that state employees will no longer be reimbursed for stays at Airbnb properties while on government business.

Speaking on a visit to the Boca Raton headquarters of the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, the governor charged that the Airbnb policy was anti-Semitic.

“Airbnb claims it’s a company of inclusion and yet this policy only affects Jews [in Judea and Samaria]. It doesn’t appear to apply to anyone else on the face of the earth,” said DeSantis.

In its November announcement, Airbnb said that it would no longer list homes in Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria because it felt uncomfortable doing business in an area subject to a  dispute between Palestinian Arabs and Israelis. The company denied that the move was anti-Semitic or that its operations have been discriminatory against Jews.

Company spokesman Ben Breit said Airbnb has “unequivocally rejected” the Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement which acts against Israel. “Airbnb is not boycotting Israel,” the company stated.

However, Florida law warns that companies can be sanctioned for limiting their activities in the territories captured by Israel in the 1967 war if it’s done in a discriminatory matter. The company has already been sued in U.S. federal court over allegations that its Judea and Samaria prohibition represents religious discrimination.

Upon winning the gubernatorial election, DeSantis vowed to act against the BDS movement.