Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely announced that “the professionals in the Foreign Ministry are working to formulate a legal action plan” against Airbnb’s move.
By: Jackson Richman/JNS and United with Israel Staff
Israel announced Monday that it will limit Airbnb’s activity in the country after the online marketplace and hospitality service announced on Monday that it will no longer permit listings in Judea and Samaria, alleging that “Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians,” according to a company statement.
“We know that people will disagree with this decision and appreciate their perspective. This is a controversial issue,” the company said. “There are many strong views as it relates to lands that have been the subject of historic and intense disputes between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank. Airbnb has deep respect for those views.”
“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,” added Airbnb.
Airbnb spokesperson Nick Papas declined to answer when asked by JNS if this is the first time there has been a ban in a conflict zone and if there will also be a ban in the Golan Heights and eastern Jerusalem as well as in Palestinian areas of the disputed territories.
Airbnb has had a mixed reception in Israel. As of last month, some Tel Aviv luxury property developers have prohibited owners from leasing through the website.
However, Airbnb was applauded in 2016 for waiving service fees and allowing hosts to list for free during a wave of fires that swept through Israel.
Airbnb’s move will affect some 200 Israelis listed on the site.
Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin has demanded that Airbnb cancel its “discriminatory decision” calling it “disgraceful and miserable” and “a disgraceful surrender by the company.” He instructed his office to formulate immediate measures to limit the company’s activity throughout the country as well as ordering his ministry to implement a special program to encourage tourism and accommodation in vacation apartments throughout Judea and Samaria.
“I will work with Airbnb management to change the shameful decision they have made,” said Deputy Foreign Minister Tzipi Hotovely. “The company discriminates against Israelis only because of their place of residence. This is hypocrisy of the first order to harm the State of Israel alone and not to engage in other international conflicts.”
She also announced that “the professionals in the Foreign Ministry are working to formulate a legal action plan against the move.”
Diplomat Urges Boycott of Airbnb
The majority if Israel’s leadership slammed the decision, while some celebrated it.
Former Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren called for a boycott of Airbnb.
“Airbnb blacklists Jewish apartments in Judea and Samaria—not Palestinian apartments, not apartments in Turkish-occupied Cyprus, in Moroccan occupied Sahara, not in Tibet or the Crimea,” he tweeted. “Airbnb’s policy is the very definition of anti-Semitism. No one should use its services.”
“Airbnb says it won’t list places in ‘disputed territories’ when those residences are owned by Jews, and not otherwise,” tweeted law professor Eugene Kontorovich. “That’s not a policy about disputed territories, but about Jews.”
“The discriminatory nature of this decision is only rivaled by the degree of sheer ignorance that went into it. Given the fact that in July of 2000, former Israeli Prime Ehud Barak had offered the Palestinians 92 percent of the West Bank, or Judea and Samaria, if you will, and the Palestinians walked away from the table,” Sarah Stern, founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), told JNS. “The response came a few months later in the form of a renewed intifada.
“Yet the Israelis are the ones that are being punished by companies such as Airbnb,” she continued. “When Israel and Israelis are being held to a double standard that no one else in the world could be expected to meet, there is one and only one word for this: anti-Semitism.”
‘Pure, Unadulterated Anti-Semitism’
Farley Weiss, president of the National Council of Young Israel, said “it should be noted that the international definition of anti-Semitism includes support for BDS. Airbnb’s action could be interpreted as supporting BDS and engaging in anti-Semitic conduct, especially when the de-listing appears to be based upon the religion of those who have the rentals.”
“This only encourages intransigence and legitimizes the terrorist dictator [Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas,” Zionist Organization of America national president Mort Klein told JNS. “The Jewish communities in Judea Samaria comprise less than 2 percent of Judea Samaria [West Bank].”
“This hateful action falsely implying that these Jewish communities prevent peace is an Orwellian lie, when it’s Israel’s very existence within any boundaries that is the real issue for the Palestinians,” he continued. “The official Palestinian maps and atlases show all of Israel as Palestine, not only Judea/Samaria.
Klein, like Oren, called for boycotting Airbnb.
“Furthermore, Airbnb is not ostracizing Palestinian homes on disputed territories or homes in Turkish-occupied Cypress or Tibet,” added Klein. “This is pure, unadulterated anti-Semitism. All must stop using Airbnb.”
StandWithUs CEO Roz Rothstein mentioned the double standard of listings in conflict zones and said: “This discrimination against only Israelis, will only add fuel to the fire of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and will not help lead to peace. Regardless of the outcome of peace negotiations, suggesting that Jews shouldn’t be allowed to live in the West Bank is collective punishment and deeply immoral.”
Duvi Honig, founder and CEO of the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce, said the Airbnb announcement reflects a bigger issue.
“BDS is all poison,” he told JNS. “We can’t pick on Airbnb, all these things. These are all children of the problem.”
He said “the direct problem is the hate and momentum being built out by BDS, and is multiplying and everyone is quiet. The hate is all over the place and is growing every single day, and we have to stop it from the root.”
However, the extreme-left Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) executive director Rebecca Vilomerson declared victory.
“WHEN WE FIGHT WE WIN!! This is a seriously great decision that is the result of several years of work by many organizations all over the world,” she tweeted.