Airbnb executive tours Israel via helicopter after company pulls listings

Airbnb received heavy backlash when it announced in November that it would delist rental apartments in the West Bank from its platform.

December 18, 2018 14:32
1 minute read.
A general view shows the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba in Hebron, in the occupied West Bank Septe

A general view shows the Jewish settlement of Kiryat Arba in Hebron, in the West Bank September 11, 2018. Picture taken September 11, 2018. (photo credit: MUSSA QAWASMA / REUTERS)


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Airbnb's Head of Global Policy and Public Affairs, Chris Lehane, who is currently visiting Israel, received a helicopter tour of the country in another attempt to influence the company's decision to boycott the West Bank.

Gal Hirsch, a brigadier general who commanded the 91st Division of Israel's Defense Forces and serves as the Chairman of the Israeli Leadership Institute, posted a photo on his Twitter feed showing him and Lehane overflying the West Bank, in what Hirsch called an advocacy flight, aimed at Hasbara.

Lehane is in Israel for a string of meetings, as a result of the heavy backlash Airbnb received when it announced in November that it would stop listing rental apartments in the West Bank from its platform.

“We are here to meet with a variety of stakeholders, and as a result of our meetings have an even deeper understanding that this is an incredibly complex and emotional issue," a statement by the company said.

After concluding a meeting with Israel's Tourism Ministry on Monday afternoon, confusion ensued as to the outcome of the talks.

The ministry issued an announcement that Airbnb reversed its Boycott decision, a fact the company was quick to deny.

“The reports issued earlier today are inaccurate," Airbnb said.

Even though the company expressed its "unequivocal rejection of the BDS movement," it added that "we are developing the tools needed to implement our policy and that process includes continuing our dialogue with the Government of Israel and other stakeholders.”

In the same breath, Airbnb said it is committed "to develop its business in Israel, enabling more tourists from around the world to enjoy the wonders of the country and its people."

Hirsch wrote in his tweet that the Israel Project, a non-partisan American educational organization dedicated to informing the media and public conversation about Israel and the Middle East,  organized the tour.

Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this article.

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