Our tour of Airbnb in Israel continues with a visit to a medieval suite.
(photo credit: JERUSALEM POST)
Speaking at the Jerusalem Post Diplomatic Conference on Wednesday, Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan slammed the popular online rental company Airbnb’s decision this week to delist places to stay in West Bank settlements as “appalling, hypocritical, outrageous, discriminatory and counterproductive.”
Erdan pointed the finger at the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, and urged the US and 190 other countries in which Airbnb operates to initiate or activate legislation against BDS to counter the move. “States and their employees should not do business with companies that discriminate against Israel and its citizens,” Erdan said, calling for a boycott of Airbnb in favor of other companies, such as Booking.com.
While Erdan is clearly right in condemning Airbnb’s decision as unfair and unjust, boycotting the boycotters is unlikely on its own to solve the problem. It would be much more effective for Israel to lobby governments around the world to stop the BDS movement’s drive to harm not only the settlements but the Jewish state itself.
Ron Brummer, the director of operations at the Strategic Affairs Ministry, put it succinctly in a panel discussion at the conference on BDS.
“Airbnb is offered in many areas of conflict all over the world, but they have decided to single out only Judea and Samara,” he said. “According to the definition of antisemitism in the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, singling out Israel in this way is pure antisemitism. Secondly, it’s completely unprofessional. They never visited the areas, and never spoke to official or unofficial Israelis; they simply took what BDS said at face value and made their decision.”
Efrat Mayor Oded Revivi, who is also the chief foreign envoy of the Yesha settlers’ council, said Airbnb’s decision violated its own stated mission of helping “to bring people together in as many places as possible around the world.”
“The whole idea of Airbnb is that people will come to see where other people live,” Revivi said. “When an organization decides to take a political stand like this, they’re basically encouraging the terrorists and the small, extreme and loud minority to carry on doing what they’re doing.”
The San Francisco-based Airbnb posted a notice about its new policy on its website on Monday, saying that there are some 200 listings in the “settlements.”
“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,” Airbnb said on its website. “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.”
Palestinian officials, predictably, praised Airbnb’s decision, which came after years of pressuring the company to ban Israeli homes beyond the Green Line from its website. Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said in a statement that Airbnb made an “initial positive step” in removing settlement listings from its website, but it should have also declared that the settlements are “illegal and constitute war crimes.”
Looking at the big picture, Israel needs to crush the BDS lie that it is comparable to apartheid South Africa by showing that most Jews and Arabs live here peacefully – and that includes in Judea and Samaria – and that decisions such as Airbnb ultimately harm prospects for peace rather than encourage them. That was the message conveyed in the BDS panel at the Jerusalem Post conference, which also included Yehuda Cohen, the CEO of the Lipsky Company in the Barkan Industrial Park (which employs 70 Palestinian and 30 Israeli workers), as well as Ashraf Jaabari and Avi Zimmerman, the cofounders of the new Judea-Samaria Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
“If BDS or any kind of labeling or boycott is successful, we can say we lost the option to live in this area,” Cohen said. “I believe that work brings hope, and boycotts bring suffering. As Nelson Mandela said, when enemies work together, in the end peace will come.”
“I believe if we continue to work hard together, Israelis and Palestinians, we will achieve excellent results,” Jaabari added. “It has to be perfectly clear that no one can break the relationship between Israelis and Palestinians working together in Judea and Samaria.”
We urge Airbnb to reconsider its decision to feed the monster that calls itself BDS, which not only undermines efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict peacefully but ultimately aims to see the end of Israel.
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