Airbnb Claims to Oppose Israel Boycotts While Boycotting Israeli Settlements

A picture shows the logo of online lodging service Airbnb displayed on a computer screen in the Airbnb offices in Paris on April 21, 2015. AFP PHOTO / MARTIN BUREAU / AFP PHOTO / MARTIN BUREAU (Photo credit should read MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty Images)
MARTIN BUREAU/AFP/Getty

NEW YORK — A series of statements on Monday have worked to confuse Airbnb’s Mideast policies, with the company claiming to oppose the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement while still singling out Jewish West Bank homes for boycott.

The fiasco began after Israel’s Tourism Ministry released a statement that Airbnb would not be implementing its recently announced policy change in which Airbnb announced the company “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.”

A spokesperson for the Tourism Ministry attributed Airbnb’s purported walk back of its settlement boycott to Yuval Lidor, an Airbnb representative in Israel. The ministry quoted Lidor as issuing a statement that the settlement boycott “would not be implemented in practice.”

After Hebrew-language media outlets reported Lidor’s quotes, Airbnb Spokesman Nick Papas told reporters that Lidor’s statement had been “sent in error.”

“The reports issued earlier today are inaccurate,” Papas said, referring to reports about a change in the Israeli settlement policy.

Papas then issued a clarification claiming that Airbnb opposes the BDS movement:

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,” the statement continued, referring to discussions held in recent days in Israel between the Tourism Ministry and an Airbnb delegation led by its global policy and public affairs head, Chris Lehane.

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.

Papas did not explain how Airbnb could reject the BDS movement while upholding its policy of boycotting Israeli settlements, the very goal of the anti-Semitic BDS campaign.

Airbnb’s settlement boycott policy is still listed on its website.

Professor Eugene Kontorovich, Director of International Law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum, argued that Airbnb “has been alarmed by lawsuits against their policy and by recent action by U.S. states like Illinois to block pension investment in the company.

“They are trying to obfuscate and spin,” Kontorovich charged. “While the company’s actions show they are alarmed by the unexpected blowback to their policy, without officially ending their uniquely discriminatory policy against Jewish communities, they will still face the legal consequences.”

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, president of Shurat Hadin, an Israeli law center that has been leading the legal campaign against the Airbnb boycott policy, stated that she is hoping “that initial reports suggesting they have walked-back their discriminatory policy are correct.”

“Otherwise we will see them in court and do everything in our power to ensure that justice prevails,” she added in an email statement.

Airbnb made its settlement decision after a fierce campaign waged against the company by the extremist BDS movement and its anti-Israel allies.

In its policy statement, Airbnb refers to the West Bank, areas where Jews have had an historic presence for thousands of years, as “occupied territories,” implying that Israel stole the land from the Palestinians.

Israel opposes the “occupied” label, and has referred to the land in international forums as disputed. The framework for all previous peace proposals (each of which was rejected by the Palestinian Authority) never called for an entire Israeli evacuation from the West Bank.

Palestinians never had a state in the West Bank and they are not legally recognized as the undisputed authorities in those areas. Jordan illegally occupied and annexed the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem from 1948 until Israel captured the lands in a defensive war in 1967.

The 1967 Six Day War was launched after Arab countries used the territories to stage attacks against the Jewish state. In 1988, Jordan officially renounced its claims to the West Bank and eastern Jerusalem and unilaterally recognized terrorist Yasser Arafat’s Palestine Liberation Organization as “the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people.”

Airbnb’s statement goes beyond the “occupied” canard to suggest Jews displaced Palestinians to build settlements. “US law permits companies like Airbnb to engage in business in these territories,” Airbnb explained. “At the same time, many in the global community have stated that companies should not do business here because they believe companies should not profit on lands where people have been displaced.”

Here, Airbnb seems to channel the wildly exaggerated Palestinian “Nakba” narrative, which falsely claims that hundreds of thousands of Palestinian Arabs were expelled from their homes when the Jewish state was founded.

The reality is quite different. After Israel was founded in 1948, a military coalition of Arab nations immediately formed to wage war on the new Jewish state. Some local Arabs, who did not yet go by the name of Palestinians, left the area in anticipation of the war, others directly responded to the dictates of Arab states to stay out of the way so that invading armies could conquer Israel, and still others fled once the war started so that they were not caught up in the fighting.

Arab states waged the war after refusing to accept UN Resolution 181, which called for the partition of the British Mandate of Palestine into Arab and Jewish states. The Jews immediately accepted the resolution, but the Arabs forthrightly rejected the plan, launching a war to destroy the Jewish state.

Israel’s Declaration of Independence called on the local Arab population to remain in place.

Aaron Klein is Breitbart’s Jerusalem bureau chief and senior investigative reporter. He is a New York Times bestselling author and hosts the popular weekend talk radio program, “Aaron Klein Investigative Radio.” Follow him on Twitter @AaronKleinShow. Follow him on Facebook.

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