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Airbnb has announced the decision to remove listings in the Israeli West Bank settlement. The company is said to take down around two hundred listings in Israeli settlements in a controversial move following pressure from Palestinians and human rights groups.
What’s Going On?
Travel companies in the West Bank area have come under scrutiny in recent months. Human Rights Watch reports have criticized the travel industry for facilitating the rental of properties in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, which is an area of disputed territory. The settlements have been ruled as unlawful under international humanitarian law, although this point is disputed by Israel.
Money is being brought into the settlements from the business of home rentals, which some people feel is helping to keep the settlements going. Rights groups have criticized the fact that companies such as Airbnb are profiting on land where people (in this case, Palestinians) have been displaced. The Israeli settlements are said to trigger human rights abuses against Palestinians who cannot access their privately-owned land and have the right to freedom of movement.
As the Israeli occupation of the West Bank has been very much at the core of the decades-long conflict, Airbnb feels it is not right to continue listing properties in the area.
Airbnb has said, “We are most certainly not the experts when it comes to the historical disputes in this region…Our team has wrestled with this issue and we have struggled to come up with the right approach. In the past, we made clear that we would operate in this area as allowed by law. We did this because we believe that people-to-people travel has considerable value and we want to help bring people together in as many places as possible around the world.
After analysis of the situation, Airbnb felt it was the right decision to remove the listings, stating “we must consider the impact we have and act responsibly”.
Here, you can read Airbnb’s full press release.
Fair or Discriminatory?
Airbnb’s decision to remove West Bank listings is controversial; it’s been welcomed by Palestinians, however, the Israelis have received it as a highly discriminatory move.
The decision is being challenged by Israeli locals who feel it is grossly unfair. It’s certainly a high-risk move, as Airbnb continues to operate in other countries in areas of disputed territory such as Northern Cyprus and Tibet. Airbnb will be facing a class-action lawsuit in Israel for the delistings.
History of the West Bank
The history of the West Bank is incredibly complex. The area was first occupied by Israel in 1967, despite Palestinian claims on the land. At present, there are around 600,000 Israelis living in and around 140 settlements on the West Bank, which have been built since the Israeli occupation of the West Bank.
For the Palestinians, the settlements are seen as an obstacle to peace. The settlements lie on land that was supposed to be for the future Palestinian state. For Israelis, the settlements are their rightful homes. The situation is currently still at a deadlock.