JERUSALEM (JTA) — Airbnb will remove listings of rooms and homes for rent in West Bank Jewish settlements, the company announced Monday.
The approximately 200 listings “would be removed in the coming days,” the company said.
Airbnb said in a statement that it consulted with experts to learn about the historical disputes in the region in order to make a decision about whether it should be doing business in “the occupied territories.” The statement did not say which experts it consulted.
The company arrived at a framework for evaluating how to treat listings in occupied territories that included assessing any potential safety risks for hosts and guests; evaluating whether the existence of listings is “contributing to existing human suffering”; and determining whether “the existence of listings in the occupied territory has a direct connection to the larger dispute in the region.”
“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,” a statement on the Airbnb website 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,” the statement said.
JTA has also learned that the next disputed territory Airbnb will be looking at under this framework is Western Sahara. Airbnb currently lists 24 properties for rent in that territory.
According to a report released Tuesday by Human Rights Watch, which has previously called for Airbnb to remove its West Bank settlement listings, at least 17 rentals in Israeli settlements are built on privately owned Palestinian land. The report also documents nearly 60 properties, of 139 surveyed, that say they are located in Israel.
Human Rights Watch has been encouraging Airbnb to delist its rentals in settlements for two years and last spoke with Airbnb in August, HRW Israel and Palestine director Omar Shakir told JTA. HRW did not time its report to coincide with Airbnb’s announcement. Shakir said he did not know if Airbnb released its announcement in connection with the report.
He said HRW welcomes the decision, and would like Booking.com, another rental site, to take the same action regarding the 26 properties it lists on West Bank settlements.
“Airbnb was facilitating rentals in settlements that are illegal under international humanitarian law,” Shakir told JTA. “They’re both benefitting from and contributing to serious violations of Palestinian human rights.”
Israel’s tourism minister, Yariv Levin, called the decision “discriminatory” as well as “disgraceful and miserable,” according to a statement issued by his office.
Levin ordered his office to “formulate immediate measures to limit the company’s activity throughout the country,” the statement said. He also instructed his ministry to develop and implement a program to encourage tourism and boost vacation apartments in the West Bank.
Arvind Ganesan, the business and human rights director at Human Rights Watch, praised the Airbnb decision.
“Airbnb’s decision to end its listings in Israeli settlements is an important recognition that such listings can’t square with its human rights responsibilities,” he said in a statement. “For two years, Human Rights Watch has spoken with Airbnb about their brokering of rentals in West Bank settlements that are illegal under international humanitarian law and for which Palestinian ID holders are effectively barred from entering, and are issuing a report about this tomorrow. We urge other companies to follow suit.”
Airbnb operates in 191 countries and regions and more than 81,000 cities.