Not-so-sweet home: Airbnb under fire for profiting off settlements in occupied West Bank

Published January 13th, 2016 - 05:00 GMT
Israeli settlements seen in East Jerusalem. Israel's policy of settlement expansion in the West Bank continues to be a source of consternation in the international community. (File)
Israeli settlements seen in East Jerusalem. Israel's policy of settlement expansion in the West Bank continues to be a source of consternation in the international community. (File)

Palestinian officials have pledged to take action against Airbnb for listing rooms for rent in West Bank settlements as located in Israel.

Dozens of Jewish settlers have advertised their homes on the vacation rental website.

Much of the international community condemns Israeli settlements built in occupied Palestinian territories, viewing land-grabbing and as one of the chief obstacles to peace.

Husam Zomlot, ambassador at large for Palestine, said it was demanding a change of policy from Airbnb.

"Certainly we will take further action. This is strikingly illegal," he told AFP, accusing the company of "illegally profiting from occupation".

"Such acts by international firms and the private sector have been a main contributor to the continuity and escalation of the situation."

"We follow laws and regulations on where we can do business and investigate concerns raised about specific listings," US-based Airbnb said in a statement, but declined to give an interview.

The Israeli tourism ministry, in line with Israeli government policy, refused to draw a distinction between the settlements in the occupied territories and the rest of Israel.

"The ministry recommends visiting and staying in every place throughout the country as no distinction can be made between one place or the next," a spokeswoman said.

Users listing their homes for rent on the website select their location and fill in details about the property. Airbnb, however, can also remove inaccuracies from home listings.

One listing in the settlement of Tekoa, located in the southern West Bank, highlights its location as being 15 minutes from Jerusalem, offering views of the "spectacular Judea desert landscape," how Israel terms this area of the West Bank. 

Omar Barghouti, co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions activism campaign, which pushes for an economic boycott of Israel, has also called on Airbnb to change their company policy.

"Airbnb can and should immediately exclude all Israeli settlements from its offerings as a significant first step towards complying with its human rights obligations under international law," he said.

Israel's settlement expansion continues to be a source of consternation, with US Secretary of State John Kerry saying the policy raises "honest questions about Israel's long-term intentions." 

There are about 380,000 Israelis living in 135 West Bank settlements, plus another 200,000 living in east Jerusalem.


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