Airbnb to remove West Bank listings

Short-term Rental Airbnb Bans Listing of Houses from Israeli West Bank Settlements

Home-renting company Airbnb Inc said on Monday that it had made a decision to remove its listings in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, enclaves that most world powers consider illegal for taking up land where Palestinians seek statehood.

I call on Israelis to come and have a vacation in Judea and Samaria.

Instead, the announcement by the vacation rental behemoth noted that it "struggled" with the decision and acknowledged it would be controversial. Waleed Assraf, who runs an anti-settlement group for the Palestinian Liberation Organization, was hopeful other companies would follow Airbnb's example, noting "this will contribute to achieving peace".

Top Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat speaks during at a press conference in the West Bank city of Ramallah, July 4, 2018.

The Israeli settlements, constructed on land captured during the 1967 war, are illegal under worldwide law, but Israel has long disputed this.

Some 500,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, areas that are also home to more than 2.6 million Palestinians.

Protester during interview with Ashton Kutcher at Airbnb Open in Los Angeles.

Speaking on Israel's Channel 13 television, he said Israel was not told of the decision in advance and that it would respond by backing lawsuits by settlement listers against Airbnb in United States courts.

"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", the company said in a statement on its website Monday.

"This is a miserable decision and a disgraceful surrender by the company", Levin said. "Kudos", she wrote on Twitter, adding that the decision came on the eve of the release of a HRW report into "human rights harms of #Airbnb business in settlements".

An Airbnb spokesman told Reuters on Monday that the decision would take effect in the days ahead.

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Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now also lauded the decision, saying the company was in line with the rest of the world in "distinguishing between sovereign Israel and the occupied territories".

Israel's tourism minister Yariv Levin called the decision "discriminatory", according to Israeli media, and instructed his ministry to "limit the company's activity throughout the country".

Israel's West Bank settlements are in violation of worldwide law, which states that an occupying power can not transfer its civilian population into occupied territory.

Erdan called Airbnb's decision "racist". Israel strongly opposes such calls for boycotts, which it considers a biased approach to the conflict.

San Francisco-basked Airbnb is eyeing an IPO next year after announcing in February it would not make a public debut this year. Settler council Yesha agreed that the company's actions "can only be a result of anti-Semitism or surrendering to terrorism - or both".

The mayor of the large settlement of Efrat, south of Jerusalem, said Airbnb's decision was a capitulation to "extremists". "Israeli settlements are not just an obstacle to peace but defy the very definition of peace", Erekat said in a statement.

Eugene Kontorovich, a law professor and pro-settlement advocate, said Airbnb's new policy amounted to anti-Semitism and could violate U.S. anti-BDS laws at the state level.

"Airbnb's approach of singling out Jews from all the disputes in the world will put it at odds with U.S. state BDS laws, and principles of discrimination", Kontorovich said.

It was not immediately clear whether Israeli homes in the annexed East Jerusalem will also be dropped from its listings.

"Airbnb is the latest target of the NGO network's anti-Israel boycott campaign", said Professor Gerald Steinberg, founder and president of NGO Monitor.

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