Airbnb has listed dozens of properties in illegal Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land, raising eyebrows about where the company stands on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The rental company has found itself in hot water over listing illegal Jewish settlement as properties in Israel as opposed to Palestine.
These settlements are located beyond the “green line” —the defined border in the 1949 Armistice Agreements between Israel and those of its neighbors (Syria, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan) after the 1948 war — and are recognized illegal by the international community.
“It’s not only controversial, it’s illegal and criminal,” Husam Zomlot, ambassador at large for Palestine, told the Guardian. “This website is promoting stolen property and land. There will come a time when companies like this, who profit from the occupation, will be taken to court.”
John Dugard, professor of international law and former UN special rapporteur on Palestinian human rights, echoed the criminal activities, stating that anyone who stays in an Airbnb-listed settlement “facilitates the commission of the crime of establishing settlements” and “therefore aids and abets the crime.”
Dugard added that Airbnb “could in theory be prosecuted in [a European Union] country with aiding and abetting the commission of a crime” because they are “making money from property built on [an] illegal settlement.”
But Airbnb is keeping quiet on the contentious issue. Airbnb spokesperson Nick Papas told the Guardian, “We follow laws and regulations on where we can do business and investigate concerns raised about specific listings.” Yet he refused to answer question regarding what laws and regulations Airbnb considers itself beholden to.
Airbnb host Itzhak Levit, who advertises a three-bedroom home in Tekoa — a settlement in Palestine — argues the settlement properties are legal under Israeli law.
“Israel has never agreed that the Geneva Convention resolutions applied to the territories occupied in 1967,” he said. “According to Israeli law, Tekoa, and the vast majority of settlements in the West Bank, are authorized settlements, therefore entirely legal and consistent with national law.”
Yet Israel’s policies are inconsistent with what the world stage deems legal.
Airbnb is being pushed to list their settlements properties in Israel, but that still isn’t enough. As Al Jazeera points out, even listing a property in the West Bank or Gaza could confuse guests as to whether they are staying in settlement or not, thus creating a ripple of security consequences and political ramifications.
Al Jazeera’s Sharif Nashashibi highlighted Airbnb’s political presence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“More fundamentally, however, continuing to list settlement properties — even if they are not allowed to be described as in Israel — still means that Airbnb will not only be doing business with, but promoting an illegal, military colonial enterprise and apartheid system that is systematically robbing Palestinians of their national and individual rights,” Nashashibi wrote.
Palestinian officials have vowed to take action against Airbnb for profiting off occupied land.
“Airbnb can and should immediately exclude all Israeli settlements from its offerings as a significant first step towards complying with its human rights obligations under international law," Omar Barghouti, Palestinian rights activist and co-founder of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, said.
Airbnb’s controversy could lead to outright boycott of the company as part of the BDS campaign to economically sanction Israel.
Barghouti argues that Airbnb "is not only legally obliged to immediately exclude all Israeli settlements from its offerings, since Israeli settlements constitute war crimes under international law,” but halting this problem is the best strategy for business.
"It also makes the most business sense for it to do so, as much larger corporations — of the calibre of Orange, Veolia and CRH — have been eventually compelled by BDS campaigning to end their complicity in Israel's human rights violations after losing massive contracts,” Barghouti said.
Jewish settlements in occupied Palestine have remained a hot-button obstacle in fostering lasting peace between Israel and Palestine, and have raised concerns in the international community about the effect this poses for a two-state solution. As Airbnb remains staunch and tight-lipped on the controversy, the bookings website is silently placing itself on the wrong side of the conflict.
Banner image credit: Reuters