Airbnb says it opposes BDS – but it’s still boycotting settlements

Airbnb expressed its unequivocal rejection of the BDS movement but says it will continue to refrain from listing West Bank vacation rentals.

A 3D printed people's models are seen in front of a displayed Airbnb logo in this illustration taken, June 8, 2016 (photo credit: DADO RUVIC/REUTERS)
A 3D printed people's models are seen in front of a displayed Airbnb logo in this illustration taken, June 8, 2016
(photo credit: DADO RUVIC/REUTERS)
Airbnb said it opposes the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, even as it continued to post a statement on its website explaining that it was boycotting West Best settlement listing.
It issued a statement after Israel’s Tourism Ministry met with an Airbnb officials in Israel on Monday, including Chris Lehane, the company’s head of global policy and public affairs.
After the meeting, the ministry said that Airbnb “announced it won’t implement its decision not to list vacation rentals in Judea and Samaria.”
Airbnb then said in response: “The reports issued earlier today are inaccurate. Airbnb expressed its unequivocal rejection of the BDS movement, and communicated its commitment to develop its business in Israel, enabling more tourists from around the world to enjoy the wonders of the country and its people.
“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. Airbnb communicated 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.”
The Tourism Ministry insisted that its statement on Airbnb’s suspension of its anti-settlement policy had come directly from Airbnb.
Airbnb’s Israeli spokesperson said the company was now in dialogue with the government with regard to its settlement policy.
Until that dialogue is finished, no further action will be taken to implement the policy.
Airbnb made waves in November when it stated on its website that it planned to boycott West Bank settlement listings.
“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.”
That statement is still on its website.
Its decision was hailed as a victory by the BDS movement, but it set off an unprecedented backlash. Multiple lawsuits were filed in the US against the San Francisco-based company, and a class action suit was filed in Israel.
With its decision, Airbnb may also have jeopardized its ability to fully operate in the US, as more than half of American states have passed anti-BDS legislation.
It could also face criminal charges if a bi-partisan bill against BDS now under debate in Congress is passed.
According to its website, Airbnb operates in 191 countries and regions, and more than 81,000 cities, but only 200 of its listings are located in West Bank settlements.
It has not made a decision to delist rentals in any other conflict zone or area of territorial dispute in the world. International legal expert Eugene Kontorovich said, “Underneath all the spin, the company has been alarmed by lawsuits against their policy and by recent action by US states like Illinois to block pension investment in the company. “They are trying to obfuscate and spin until they get past their planned IPO in the spring. “While the company's actions show they are alarmed by the unexpected blow-back to their policy, without officially ending their uniquely discriminatory policy against Jewish communities, they will still face the legal consequences.” said Kontorovich, who is the Director of International Law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum.