As American actor and investor Ashton Kutcher took the stage Saturday to speak at the Los Angeles event, Airbnb Open 2016 A Festival of Hosting, one protester had different plans. According to People Magazine a protestor stormed the stage yelling about Airbnb's housing options in West Bank settlement communities. The woman, identified as Ariel Gold, was representing CODEPINK, an organization that identifies itself as "a women-initiated grassroots peace and social justice movement." One of the group's main protest subjects are Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Dressed in a pink getup Gold stormed the stage, as many in the crowd booed, and she held a poster bearing the slogan "Airbnb Out of Settlements" and featuring the group's Twitter handle. Footage of the incident captured by one attendee showed Kutcher greeting the protestor, shaking her hand and asking her how she is. "Let me explain to you something about what Airbnb means to me," stated Kutcher. "Let me first tell you what Airbnb is doing to Palestinians,"shouted back Gold"Well you also don't have the stage," Kutcher responded. Kutcher continued to defend the peer-to-peer rental company, and Airbnb's founder Brian Chesky.Airbnb since January of this year.
Ashton Kutcher protest at Airbnb (YouTube)
When Al Jazeera reported on it in January, one Palestinian official was quoted as saying that Airbnb "is promoting stolen property on stolen land.""It's not only controversial, it's illegal and criminal," Husam Zomlot, a Palestinian diplomat, told Al Jazeera.In March, an international coalition of pro-Palestinian groups demanded that the online vacation rental company immediately stop listing properties in West Bank Israeli settlements.The groups, which included Jewish Voice for Peace and the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, made the demands in a petition delivered to Airbnb offices in London, Paris, San Francisco and Portland, Oregon. The petition had more than 140,000 signatures, the groups said.Airbnb had not issued a response to the petition. However, in January, it said in a press statement: “We follow laws and regulations on where we can do business.”Approximately 300 settlement properties are listed on Airbnb, many of them labeled as being in Israel rather than specifying they are located outside Israel’s 1967 borders.JTA contributed to this report.