Airbnb has backtracked its earlier decision to remove listings in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, saying instead that it would donate profits generated in the entire area to charity.
The move is a sharp U-turn from its earlier announcement that it would stop listing the 200 controversial settlement accommodations in November, which was widely commended at the time. Airbnb also faced sharp rebukes from Israeli groups and was hit with Israeli and US lawsuits.
Airbnb said it had settled all lawsuits related to the policy and it would “not move forward with implementing the removal of listings in the West Bank from the platform.”
It added that it would “take no profits from this activity in the region.” The statement refers to the “entire” West Bank, meaning Palestinian Airbnb listings are included despite not having anything to do with the controversial settlements.
@Airbnb decision reverses their stance to fully respect rights. Donating profits from unlawful settlement listings does nothing to remedy ‘human suffering’ they’ve acknowledged causing. By continuing to do business in settlements, they remain complicit in abuses.
— Omar Shakir (@OmarSShakir)
April 9, 2019
Israeli settlements built within the West Bank are seen as illegal by the international community, as they violate the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibiting an occupying power from transferring its citizens into the territory it occupies and displacing the population. Israel has occupied the West Bank since the 1967 war, and the West Bank and Gaza are considered to be the home of a future Palestinian state, should the two-state solution ever come to fruition.
“Airbnb’s disappointing decision appears to reverse their stance to fully respect rights,” Human Rights Watch said in a statement. “By continuing to do business in settlements, they remain complicit in the abuses settlements trigger.”
In January, Amnesty International accused Airbnb, Booking.com and other tourism sites of profiting from “war crimes” by offering services in illegal Israeli settlements.
After its November announcement, the company was sued by the Jerusalem District Court in a class action that accused it of “outrageous discrimination” and demanded damages.
Two US federal courts in Delaware and California also filed suits, both framing the move as one made against Jewish-owned properties but not Muslim or Christian ones, despite the fact that the issue was based around Israeli settlements specifically, which are populated by Jewish settlers.
“Airbnb has never boycotted Israel, Israeli businesses, or the more than 20,000 Israeli hosts who are active on the Airbnb platform,” the company said.