Airbnb continues settlement boycott, to delist disputed areas of Georgia

"Airbnb's attempt to put a fig leaf on their anti-Jewish discrimination actually only accentuates the extent of their discrimination in relation to Israel," said Professor Eugene Kontorovich.

AIRBNB SOUGHT to ban listings in Jewish communities in the West Bank. (photo credit: REUTERS)
AIRBNB SOUGHT to ban listings in Jewish communities in the West Bank.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Airbnb plans to maintain its boycott of West Bank settlements, but has decided to delist vacation rentals from South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two contested autonomous areas in the state of Georgia.
The global vacation rental website has been under fire since its November decision to drop listings from West Bank settlements. At the time, the company stated that the move was part of the company’s new global framework for disputed territories.
 
Critics pushed back at that argument because the West Bank settlements were the only disputed territory to which Airbnb had applied the policy. The policy solely targeted Israelis living in settlements and has not been applied to Palestinians in the West Bank.
 
Israel had pushed Airbnb to reconsider its decision. But instead of reinstating the listings, Airbnb posted on its website that it was applying the policy to other regions in dispute.
“Airbnb had concerns that because homes – the core of the Airbnb business – are a central element of the dispute among stakeholders in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Airbnb’s listings could be implicated in ongoing tensions,” it stated on its website. “In applying the global framework to these disputed territories, Airbnb determined that the existence of the listings in these disputed territories has a direct connection to the larger conflict in the region.”
It added that it was considering delisting properties in other areas of territorial disputes.
“We continue to review other areas of the world that are the subject of disputes and will provide updates as appropriate,” the company stated. The company noted that it was still in the process of removing the listings and that more work needed to be done to determine which properties in those areas it planned to delist.
“We are working with experts to develop and validate the means to implement our policy. For example, we must appropriately identify the precise boundaries of the areas subject to our policy and ensure that our technological solutions attend to the relevant details,” Airbnb said.
Prof. Eugene Kontorovich, director of international law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum, said that Airbnb’s boycott of West Bank settlements was discriminatory, even though it expanded its boycott list to include other disputed regions.
 
“Airbnb’s attempt to put a fig leaf on their anti-Jewish discrimination actually only accentuates the extent of their discrimination in relation to Israel,” Kontorovich said. “Having been criticized for only applying its supposed global policy to Israel, the company has now added some tiny obscure Georgian territories, occupied by Russia.”
And of course the delisting of Abkhazia/Ossetia, tiny territories heard of, to provide cover for its Israel policy is comical. @Airbnb already can't do biz in Crimea because of sanctions, so no concern about pissing off Russia.
— Eugene Kontorovich (@EVKontorovich) January 21, 2019
 
“However, Airbnb has delisted all properties in these regions, whereas with regard to the West Bank, only Jewish properties were delisted,” he continued. “Far from alleviating their discriminatory policy, Airbnb’s new fig leaf actually reveals the naked discrimination applied to Jewish-Israelis.”
 
Multiple lawsuits have been filed against Airbnb in Israel and the United States since the company decision to boycott West Bank settlement listings. The company is also in danger of running afoul of United States laws against the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement that exist in 26 states.
The company has stated that it is opposed to BDS and has insisted that its decision to delist the West Bank settlements was part of a larger policy with respect to disputed areas.