On November 19, Airbnb announced that it was “removing listings” in “Israeli settlements in the Occupied West Bank.” The company provided no details as to how it defines “Israeli settlements” or the “Occupied West Bank” and whether its decision relates to Jerusalem, and in particular, the Jewish Quarter of the Old City.
The obvious question is why Israel? Why not any other conflict zone around the world, or the many dictatorships and closed regimes? Why did Airbnb become the center of the latest nongovernmental organization (NGO)-led Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, and allow Ken Roth, the head Human Rights Watch (HRW), to tout Airbnb’s decision as ending the company’s complicity in “rights violations?” If this were truly about human rights, Airbnb could delist China, the country occupying Tibet and responsible for detaining nearly one million members of the Muslim Uyghur minority in “reeducation camps.” Chinese homes make up about 4% of Airbnb’s listings, while the “settlement” listings are just 0.004% of the total.
If they were honest, Airbnb’s executives would admit that this change in policy targeting Jewish-owned homes in the West Bank followed a coordinated and well-financed campaign led by BDS NGOs. The campaign is headed by US-based Human Rights Watch, alongside smaller radical NGOs, including Jewish Voice for Peace, Who Profits, and CODEPINK. The funders responsible for this campaign include a number of European governments, and at least five of the leading NGOs involved receive support from the US-based Rockefeller Brothers Fund.
For at least two years, Airbnb’s Israel-related business was under sustained attack from these self-proclaimed human rights groups, noisily accusing the company of “profiting from Apartheid” and “violating international law.” There is no doubt that the company feared being included in the forthcoming UNHRC “blacklist” of companies doing business over the 1949 Armistice line, and other forms of negative publicity. Their lofty rhetoric notwithstanding, this policy was a form of political and economic blackmail, and not the result of legal or moral principle – indeed Airbnb acknowledges that offering listings in West Bank “settlements” is not illegal.
State sponsors of terror are not being removed from Airbnb’s platform, nor are countries where gender equality is nearly nonexistent. Only Jewish-owned properties in the West Bank have been the subject of an intensive NGO campaign.