TEL AVIV – With post-election fever grabbing all the headlines, the sensational story of Airbnb’s decision to reverse its policy banning Jewish listings in the West Bank has almost slipped under the radar.
In a press release published on its site Tuesday, Airbnb said it “will not move forward with implementing the removal of listings in the West Bank from the platform.”
The reversal was the result of a court settlement the day before between Airbnb and 18 American Jewish plaintiffs who had sued the vacation rental giant.
Airbnb has “settled all lawsuits that were brought by hosts and potential hosts and guests who objected” to its West Bank policy, the company said.
It further acknowledged the complexities involved in delisting only Jewish settlements, and not those owned by Christians and Muslims, inside the West Bank.
Airbnb’s November policy change came in the wake of a fierce campaign waged against it by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel and a day before the leftist NGO Human Rights Watch was due to publish a report outlining the company’s operations in Israeli settlements.
The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, which was organized by Israeli human rights law organization Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center, mostly own properties in Israel.
In December, Airbnb denied reports that it had reversed the policy.
Shurat Hadin in February charged Airbnb with violating anti-BDS laws in 22 U.S. states.
“Airbnb are in clear violation of the state-wide anti-BDS statutes and must be brought to justice. It is not acceptable that in the year 2019, American companies can publicly boycott Jewish-owned business without fear of legal retribution,” Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, president of Shurat Hadin, said at the time.
In its statement, Airbnb pledged to donate any profits from the West Bank to humanitarian groups.
“We understand the complexity of the issue that was addressed in our previous policy announcement, and we will continue to allow listings throughout all of the West Bank, but Airbnb will take no profits from this activity in the region,” the statement reads. “Any profits generated for Airbnb by any Airbnb host activity in the entire West Bank will be donated to non-profit organizations dedicated to humanitarian aid that serve people in different parts of the world.”
The vacation rental company also said it would apply the same policy to the disputed territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as well as evaluating other contested areas around the world.
Airbnb said that it has never supported the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting Israel.
“Airbnb has always opposed the BDS movement,” the statement reads. “Airbnb has never boycotted Israel, Israeli businesses, or the more than 20,000 Israeli hosts who are active on the Airbnb platform. We have always sought to bring people together and will continue to work with our community to achieve this goal.”