Jews, Arabs react to Airbnb boycott

Airbnb’s decision Monday to ban Judea and Samaria listings from its home-rental site sparked strong reactions. 

By World Israel News Staff

Airbnb’s decision on Monday to ban Judea and Samaria apartment listings from its popular home-rental site kindled strong reactions from Jews and Arabs.

The strongest reaction, perhaps, came from Israel’s Minister of Tourism, Yariv Levin, who released a video of himself condemning Airbnb’s move, calling it “the most wretched of wretched capitulations to the boycott efforts.”

“We’re looking into submitting appeals against Airbnb in the U.S.,” Levin said, according to Israel’s state-owned Kan news.

“We’re also looking into imposing taxes on the company in order to exact a heavy price on account of their decision. Settlement in Yesha [Judea and Samaria] will emerge stronger in light of this experience,” he said.

The San Francisco-based company admitted its decision, which affects some 200 listings, was for political reasons. In a statement on its website, the company made it clear that it had accepted the Palestinian narrative of the conflict.

“We 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,” Airbnb said.

“Our hope is that someday sooner rather than later, a framework is put in place where the entire global community is aligned so there will be a resolution to this historic conflict and a clear path forward for everybody to follow.”

Oded Revivi, mayor of the West Bank settlement of Efrat and a representative of Yesha, the umbrella settler council, said Airbnb’s decision was contrary to the company’s stated mission of helping “to bring people together in as many places as possible around the world.”

“When they make such a decision, they get involved with politics, which … is going to defeat the actual purpose of the enterprise itself,” Revivi told Reuters.

Boycott Airbnb?

Israelis politicians and American Jewish organizations expressed their disappointment with Airbnb.

Michael Oren, current deputy minister in the prime minister’s Office and Israel’s former ambassador to the U.S., tweeted Monday that Airbnb should be boycotted:

“Airbnb blacklists Jewish apartments in Judea and Samaria – not Palestinian apartments, not apartments in Turkish occupied Cyprus, in Moroccan occupied Sahara, not in Tibet or the Crimea. Airbnb’s policy is the very definition of anti-Semitism. No one should use its services.”

B’nai Brith International tweeted Monday: “Airbnb’s removal of its rental listings in the West Bank is a blatantly discriminatory decision that represents yet another instance of the double standard applied by the rest of the world to Israel. Airbnb should reverse this unfair policy immediately.”

The American pro-Israel group, StandWithUs, tweeted: “Airbnb to remove ONLY Jewish neighborhood listings in disputed territories. Appalling discrimination from @Airbnb. No one should be silent against this kind of fundamental discrimination.”

Palestinians applaud

Palestinians and their supporters had long lobbied Airbnb to delist the settlements. 

Palestinians deem the settlements, and the military presence needed to protect them, to be obstacles to their goal of establishing a state. Israel disputes this.

Palestinian Authority chief negotiator Saeb Erekat, celebrated Airbnb’s decision on Monday, suggesting Airbnb go further and include parts of Jerusalem:

“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.”

Waleed Assraf, head of a Palestinian anti-settlement group run by the Palestine Liberation Organization, welcomed Airbnb’s decision. Should other companies follow suit, he told Reuters, “this will contribute to achieving peace.”

Approximately 500,000 Israelis live in Judea and Samaria and East Jerusalem.

Judea and Samaria, the biblical heartland of ancient Israel, is also considered by Israel to be an important security bulwark providing strategic depth.

Palestinians want the West Bank for a future state, along with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

The Algemeiner contributed to this report.