Why Are Palestinians Boycotting Airbnb?

Palestinians leaders and organizations are calling for a boycott of the the popular lodging rental website Airbnb, criticizing the company for allowing rental listings from residents of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

The protests first started in mid-January of this year when it was announced that Airbnb would be allowing postings from within Israeli West Bank settlements. CNBC News reported that Palestinians have begun calling for a boycott of the company, accusing them of mislabeling the postings and profiting from continued Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.

“A search by CNBC found rentals in West Bank settlements like Tekoa, Ma’ale Rehavam and Kfar Eldad, which were listed as being part of Israel rather than Palestine.”

International law deems the settlement communities illegal according to Hufftington Post. Even the government of the United States, Israel’s long-time top supporter in the world, considers them “illegitimate” according to Al Jazeera. Where some might see stunning desert landscape views close to the ancient city of Jerusalem, others see the shadow of modern-day colonialism and bitter religious warfare.

Why Are Palestinians Boycotting Airbnb?
Graffiti on the West Bank barrier. (Photo by Marco Di Lauro/Getty Images)

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat reportedly sent a letter to Airbnb’s CEO insisting that the company cease to allow postings from Israeli West Bank settlements.

“Any international company like Airbnb that profits from the occupation and from our blood must be held accountable and brought to justice,” Husam Zomlot, ambassador at-large and former adviser to President of the Palestinian National Authority Mahmoud Abbas, said to The Denver Post.

Jogn Dugard, former special rapporteur to the United Nations on Palestine, echoed these sentiments in The Guardian.

“Anyone who stays in an Airbnb facilitates the commission of the crime of establishing settlements and therefore aids and abets the crime,” Dugard said. “Same applies to making money from property built on illegal settlements.”

Other issues raised by Airbnb allowing West Bank postings include legal issues and the safety of its customers. It’s not hard to imagine how an Airbnb user not familiar with the history of the region and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict could end up in mortal danger after making a booking in a mislabeled property in the middle of illegally occupied territory.

This condemnation of Airbnb’s business practices comes hot on the heels of a report issued by advocacy group Human Rights Watch (HRW), which calls on companies to respect human rights and stop operating in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The extensive 162-page report, titled “Occupation, Inc.: How Settlement Businesses Contribute to Israel’s Violations of Palestinian Rights,” issues a call for private companies to stop “operating in, financing, servicing, or trading with Israeli settlements in order to comply with their human rights responsibilities.”

Why Are Palestinians Boycotting Airbnb?
Jewish and Palestinian neighborhoods separated by a barrier in the West Bank. (Photo by Uriel Sinai/Getty Images)

According to TIME Magazine, the report also stated that companies who do business in Israeli industrial zones are violating international law and contributing to a situation in which Palestinians are deprived of their rights and undermining efforts at a two-state solution.

The controversy has drawn Airbnb, a well-known “shared economy” giant that Inquisitr noted ranked as the best place to work in 2015, into the middle of international politics and heated territorial disputes. For their part however, Airbnb maintains they are operating within the law and refuse to admit any wrongdoing or change their policies.

“We follow laws and regulations on where we can do business and investigate concerns raised about specific listings,” Airbnb told CNBC News in an email. “We also encourage guests to communicate with their host about their listing long before a trip begins. Discrimination has no place on our platform and we investigate any claims we receive.”

Airbnb also posts listings in other controversial disputed territories around the globe such as Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus and Moroccan-claimed Western Sahara.

(Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)