Airbnb to remove listings in illegal Israeli settlements, HRW calls on other tourism companies to follow suit

In November 2018, Airbnb announced that property listings in Israeli settlements would be removed from its website. The decision came a day before Human Rights  Watch (HRW) published a report claiming that travel sites like Airbnb and help make settlements become more profitable and therefore sustainable. “By delisting rentals in illegal settlements off-limits to Palestinians, Airbnb has taken a stand against discrimination, displacement, and land theft,” said Arvind Ganesan, business and human rights director at HRW. In a statement to HRW, said that it does not buy or sell rooms and does not operate as a travel or tourist agency but rather operates a platform for making properties available for reservation. Such activity, it said, does not constitute the provision or services or utilities that support the maintenance and existence of settlements. According to HRW, tourism companies in the occupied West Bank cannot mitigate or avoid contributing to the serious rights abuses inherent in the settlement enterprise, because the activities they conduct take place on unlawfully seized land and under conditions of discrimination that effectively prevent them from renting properties to Palestinian residents of the West Bank.

Coverage of HRW's report, including statements from Airbnb and, is available below.

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14 December 2018

Airbnb faces lawsuits in the US over alleged discrimination after decison to stop listing rentals in Occupied Palestine Territories

Author: Biz Carson, Forbes (USA)

"Airbnb Boycotted And Sued For Discrimination Following Israel Settlement Ban", 11 Dec 2018

Airbnb’s decision to remove 200 listings from Israeli settlements in the West Bank is [fiercly criticized]…

Several U.S. states are…researching whether the…company has broken state laws by prohibiting the listings, some U.S. cities are calling for a boycott [and] Airbnb faces multiple lawsuits over alleged discrimination… 

It's not the first time Airbnb stripped rental offerings because of a political dispute: The company removed approximately 4,000 listings in Crimea in 2014. But that move followed U.S. and international sanctions after Russia annexed the region from Ukraine…

[Despite Palestinians and the United Nations considering the settlements unlawful,] there are no U.S. sanctions against the Israeli…in the West Bank.... 

[Airbnb] spent at least two years in dialogue with the Human Rights Watch and other experts to make the November 19 decision, which preceded a 65-page report from Human Rights Watch called “Bed and Breakfast On Stolen Land.”…

Palestinian leaders cheered the decision [and]…six Jewish organizations…supported Airbnb, writing to the Israeli government in a joint letter to condemn the government’s criticism of the move as anti-Semitic

Airbnb has said that it does not align with the BDS (Boycott, Divest or Sanction) movement, which promotes different forms of boycotting to pressure Israel…

Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said in a Forbes’ October 2018 cover story : “Before, it was really about financial metrics, and I think now companies are realizing we have a greater responsibility to society to make sure life is great.”

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21 November 2018

Airbnb settlements disengagement decision shows the way forward for companies in the emerging context of business and human rights compliance

Author: Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights

Earlier this week, the San Francisco-based company, Airbnb, announced that it will remove from its popular accommodation bookings website all properties (currently around 200 Airbnb listings) in illegal Israeli settlements built in the occupied West Bank... Points of clarification do however remain that should be pursued with Airbnb. Their press statement does not state when the removal of listings will take effect (a search on their website just now indicates that listings in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank are still available). Moreover, it does not expressly state that listings within illegal Israeli settlements in occupied East Jerusalem will also be removed. Notwithstanding these outstanding issues, this significant disengagement decision does additionally highlight the importance of the pending UN business and human rights database that will list companies involved in specific settlement-related activities...

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20 November 2018

Israel: Airbnb to End Settlement Rentals

Author: Human Rights Watch

The decision by Airbnb to stop listing properties in unlawful Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank is a positive step that other global tourism companies should follow, Human Rights Watch and Kerem Navot said in issuing a report today about the activities of Airbnb and in settlements. The 65-page report, “Bed and Breakfast on Stolen Land: Tourist Rental Listings in West Bank Settlements,” traces the status of the land on which rental properties were built. Human Rights Watch and Kerem Navot evaluated how Airbnb and contribute to making settlements sustainable economically and benefit from the serious rights abuses and entrenched discriminatory practices stemming from the settlements. Israelis and foreigners may rent properties in settlements, but Palestinian ID holders are effectively barred – the only example in the world the organizations found in which Airbnb hosts have no choice but to discriminate against guests based on national or ethnic origin... Airbnb’s anti-discrimination policy forbids discrimination based on national origin in the United States and European Union, but permits it elsewhere, when domestic law allows it. In the West Bank, Airbnb had been acquiescing to a policy under which a Palestinian landowner cannot even pay to stay in a home built on their own land, let alone use their land for development. In order to comply with their responsibilities under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, Human Rights Watch and Kerem Navot believe should follow Airbnb’s lead and stop listing properties in settlements.

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19 November 2018

Airbnb to take rentals in Israeli West Bank settlements off website

Author: Oliver Holmes, The Guardian

Airbnb has said it will remove from its website all properties in Israeli settlements built on the occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank, after years of accusations that the company was benefitting from rentals in the illegal outposts. The accommodation bookings website announced on Monday that around 200 listings would be taken down in what will be seen as a victory for the Palestinian-led anti-occupation movement. “Many in the global community have stated that companies should not do business here because they believe companies should not profit on lands where people have been displaced,” it said in a statement posted on its website. “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.” The announcement came before the publication on Tuesday of a damning report by the New York-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch on the negative implications of its settlement business... Human Rights Watch welcomed the move. Arvind Ganesan, the business and human rights director at the organisation, said Airbnb’s decision was “an important recognition that such listings can’t square with its human rights responsibilities”...

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