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Global protests target Airbnb over Israeli settlement rentals

Over 150,000 sign petition calling on Airbnb to pull out of Israeli settlements as part of the #StolenHomes campaign, which was launched by a consortium of organizations following an investigative report by +972 and Local Call.

By John Brown*

Protesters outside Fidelity Investment in Chicago demand that the company divest from Airbnb, June 3, 2016. (Courtesy of JVP)

Protesters outside Fidelity Investment in Chicago demand that the company divest from Airbnb, June 3, 2016. (Courtesy of JVP)

A coalition of international organizations organized protests in cities across the world Friday against Airbnb’s operations in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. In addition to the international actions, local popular committees of Palestinian villages and cities like Nabi Saleh, Bil’in, and Hebron also participated.

The protests were part of a global campaign, “Stolen Homes,” which was launched following an investigation published here on +972 and our Hebrew-language sister site, Local Call, which revealed that Airbnb allows Israeli settlers to rent out rooms and guesthouses to unsuspecting tourists without disclosing that they are located in illegal settlements in occupied territory. (All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.)

Among the vacation properties available for rent on the site are a number in settlement outposts considered illegal even under Israeli law, some of which are situated on stolen, privately owned Palestinian land. The investigation also found that many property owners were discriminating by refusing to rent to prospective Arab guests, which violates company policy.

At Airbnb’s European headquarters in Dublin, campaigners boasted a petition signed by over 150,000 people, demanding that the company immediately stop listing vacation rentals in Israelis settlements. The campaign also targeted Fidelity Investment, a major investor in the company, demanding that it divest from it.

The campaign video:

The petition reads:

As people who care about human rights and international law, we ask Airbnb to immediately stop listing vacation rentals in Israeli settlements, all of which were built on stolen Palestinian land and deemed illegal under international law. Airbnb’s anti-discrimination policy states that they prohibit listings that promote racism, discrimination, or harm to individuals or groups, and require all users to comply with local laws.

Yet, listing vacation rentals in illegal settlements promotes structural discrimination, theft of Palestinians’ land, and direct violations of international law. Through earning fees from settlement vacation rentals, Airbnb is directly profiting from the continuing occupation and dispossession of Palestinians.

“Hand-delivering the petitions and organizing protests sends a clear message to [Airbnb CEO] Brian Chesky and Airbnb that we’re not going anywhere,” explained Stefanie Fox, deputy director of Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), which is one of several organizations behind the campaign.

“Airbnb has to stop enabling Israeli violations of international law,” Fox added. “Whether Airbnb has a physical presence or not in the West Bank, they are still profiting off it. It’s absolutely dirty money.”

Protesters demand that Airbnb stop renting properties in West Bank Israeli settlements, Dublin, June 3, 2016. (Courtesy of JVP)

Protesters demand that Airbnb stop renting properties in West Bank Israeli settlements, Dublin, June 3, 2016. (Courtesy of JVP)

In the wake of the Local Call/+972 Magazine investigation, a Twitter campaign, #StolenHomes, began demanding that the company stop enabling the rental of homes and rooms in Israeli settlements. PLO Secretary General Saeb Erekat even went as far as contacting Airbnb CEO Chesky with similar demands. The company was also hit with thousands of negative reviews as a result of the activist campaign, which also included letters to Chesky.

Airbnb declined to respond to +972/Local Call’s request for comment ahead of the publication of our original investigation, but as the global pressure increased, the company told the Associated Press and others that it, “follows laws and regulations on where we can do business.” The company also claimed that it investigates specific violation of its anti-discrimination policy.

At the end of June the United Nations Human Rights Council is expected to publish a list of companies operating in West Bank settlements, and Airbnb is expected to appear on that list, perhaps adding to the international pressure it is facing.

*John Brown is the pseudonym of an Israeli academic and a blogger. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call, where he is a blogger. Read it here.

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    COMMENTS

    1. carmen

      Get out of occupied land Airbnb! Love this video and all the Tamimi family –

      Reply to Comment
    2. Bernie X

      Urr….uh.

      So what’s stopping West Bank Arabs from renting their rooms on Airbnb to tourists?
      Competition is a good thing, no?

      Reply to Comment
    3. Lewis from Afula

      It is too late to dismantle the Yesha homes. The population has reached some 410,000. Its impossible to relocate this population. The PLO terrorists have “missed the bus”.

      Reply to Comment
      • Bruce Gould

        According to the Abraham Center for Mideast Peace the population if Greater Israelistine is now a slight majority Palestinian. It’s too late to relocate them all, it’s too late to relocate the Israeli settlements, it’s too late for anything but one state with equal rights for everyone. Either that…or apartheid.

        Reply to Comment
        • Lewis from Afula

          Your data is falsified rubbish. The so-called “Abraham Center”, calls all half-Jews, quarter-Jews and spouses of Jews as “fakestines”. Then it adds foreign workers as “fakestines” and then adds Druzes, Double-counted Jerusalem arabs plus unoccupied Aza residents to “fakestines”. I agree if you do all these mental tricks you get a slight majority of p people in Israel.

          Reply to Comment
    4. We should focus on the common good of the society rather than nationality,religious or ethnic background of individuals. That the only way we are going to get a progressive society

      Reply to Comment
    5. I am wondering what has happened with Air BnB at this time. Has it removed the listings located in illegal settlements as of October 2016? Air BnB is asking for users to commit to a ‘non-discrimination’ clause before continuing use of the site. That sounds good but not if they are listing in illegal settlements. If anyone can let me know the current situation with the company I would appreciate it. They have not replied to my request for information.

      Reply to Comment

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