Palestinians welcome Airbnb decision to take down rentals in the Israeli occupied West Bank

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Home-renting company Airbnb has decided to remove rental listings situated in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, addressing growing concerns over illegal activity in the Israeli-occupied land.

The company released a statement on Monday, explaining that about 200 listings would be taken down in a bid to address concerns within the “global community” that the company has been profiting from “lands where people have been displaced”.

“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,” read the statement.

“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.”

The decision comes as Airbnb had been widely criticized by rights groups and activists ever since reports first revealed in 2016, that the company was listing the rentals as being part of Israeli territories and not Palestine.

Furthermore, a report, leaked from European Union diplomats last February, alleged that Israel was intentionally using the tourism industry as a way to legitimize its illegal settlements.

The settlements, established after Israel occupied the West Bank and East Jerusalem al-Quds after the Six-Day War in 1967, have currently grown to more than 230 communities, in a clear violation of international law.

The new announcement, however, was welcomed by the Human Rights Watch as a positive step towards peace, urging other companies to follow suit.

The rights group also noted that Airbnb’s move came just a day before its planned release of a 65-page report reporting on tourist rental activity in the illegally occupied West Bank.

Human Rights Watch said in statment that Airbnb decision  to stop listing properties in unlawful Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank is a positive step that other global tourism companies should follow, Human Rights Watch and Kerem Navot said in issuing a report today about the activities in settlements of Airbnb and Booking.com.

The 65-page report, “Bed and Breakfast on Stolen Land: Tourist Rental Listings in West Bank Settlements,” traces the status of the land on which rental properties were built.

Human Rights Watch and Kerem Navot evaluated how Airbnb and Booking.com contribute to making settlements sustainable economically and benefit from the serious rights abuses and entrenched discriminatory practices stemming from the settlements.

Israelis and foreigners may rent properties in settlements, but Palestinian ID holders are effectively barred – the only example in the world today the organizations found in which Airbnb hosts have no choice but to discriminate against guests based on national or ethnic origin.

The decision was, however, strongly denounced by Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, who called on his ministry to “limit the company’s activity throughout the country.”

Levin described the move as “the most wretched of wretched capitulations to the boycott efforts,” making reference to international calls to boycott Israel, most notably the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Dr. Saeb Erekat PLO member welcomed  Airbnb’s Decision to Remove Listings in Israeli Settlements from its page.

 Erekat said :”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.

We reiterate our call upon the UN Human Rights Council to release the database of companies profiting from the Israeli colonial occupation. Israeli settlements are not just an obstacle to peace but defy the very definition of peace Erekat adedd.

BDS is a Palestinian-led international campaign launched more than a decade ago with the aim of ending Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories.

It pursues equal rights for Palestinians by exerting pressure on the Israeli regime via economic and cultural boycotts.