Airbnb decision on Judea/Samaria

The attached note has been issued by the Israeli Ministry for Strategic Affairs

I would add that Israel’s presence in Judea and Samaria is perfectly legal

November 20, 2018

Report on Airbnb decision

General

  1. On November 19 Airbnb announced that it intends to remove approximately 200 rental properties located in the West Bank which are currently listed on its website. The company says its decision was reached following an in-depth examination of the issue. Since the announcement of the decision, BDS organizations have called it a victory.

About the campaign

  1. For several years now, a BDS campaign has been launched against Airbnb under the tagline “Stolen Homes,” calling out the company for listing apartments in “Israeli settlements,” which, according to the campaign’s organizers, were built on “stolen Palestinian land” and constitute a breach of international law.
  2. The campaign was promoted by a coalition of organizations led by four American BDS organizations: Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), American Muslims for Palestine (AMP), Code Pink and US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR)[1].
  3. The campaign collected over 150,000 signatures to a petition calling on Airbnb to stop advertising homes in “Israeli settlements”. According to the petition, the advertisement of apartments in the “illegal settlements” promotes structural discrimination against the Palestinians, and is therefore incompatible with the company’s anti-discrimination policy that prohibits the publication of properties that promote racism, discrimination or harm to individuals or groups[2].
  4. As part of the campaign, a “satirical” website was created that simulates a page on the Airbnb site where an apartment for rent is offered. Among other things, the description of the “property” reads: “Come stay at an illegal settlement built on stolen Palestinian land. This stolen home comes with views of the Apartheid Wall. You may hear occasional gunfire from the Israeli Occupation Forces firing zone, which recently replaced a destroyed Palestinian village nearby”[3].
  5. One event in the context of the campaign took place in November 2016, when a key Pink Code activist, Ariel Gold, burst out at a Los Angeles event with a sign reading “Airbnb out of settlements”[4].

Ties to terrorism and Iran’s leading organizations in the campaign against Airbnb

  1. AMP: Leading figures in organizations that were involved in financing the Hamas terrorist organization in the past have joined the AMP organization and currently hold senior positions. Thus, according to the testimony of Dr. Jonathan Schneller, vice President of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former US Treasury Department official, before Congress from April and May 2016[5], leading figures in the Holy Land Foundation, which was involved in funding Hamas, joined forces with AMP. Moreover, leading figures in the Islamic Association for Palestine (IAP), which was involved in financial aid to Hamas, joined the AMP and fill senior positions.
  2. Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP): The organization led a campaign during the years 2016-2017 for the convicted terrorist Rasmea Odeh, who was also invited as a keynote speaker at the organization’s conference[6]. In 1969, she carried out a terrorist attack in a supermarket in Jerusalem, killing two Israeli students in their 20s and wounding nine[7]. Odeh was sentenced to two life terms and was released ten years later as part of a deal on the condition that she be deported. Odeh settled in Jordan and moved to the United States in 1994. She was forced to leave the United States in 2017.
  3. Code Pink: The organization Code Pink has had tied with Iran for years. A delegation of organization members is due to arrive in Tehran on January 10-18, 2019[8]. During the visit of the delegation, some of whose participants have already visited Iran (such as Ariel Gold who is mentioned above in connection with the incident of interrupting Ashton Kutcher), there will be several meetings in Tehran with parliamentarians and representatives of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, academics and Islamic religious persons. In addition, over the past few years, the organization has carried out numerous campaigns in favour of Iran, such as a petition supporting the Iranian nuclear agreement[9] and a conference on peace with Iran[10].
  4. US Campaign for Palestinian Rights (USCPR): USCPR is the leading US organization promoting the BDS National Campaign (BNC) agenda and serves as the BNC’s fiscal sponsor[11], and the BNC heads a coalition of 27 Palestinian organizations led by the National Islamic Forces (PNIF)[12]. The national and Islamic forces are a coalition of the twelve main Palestinian factions (national and religious streams) including declared terrorist organizations such as Hamas, JAF and the PA[13].

Palestinian involvement in the campaign against Airbnb

  1. Saeb Erekat, head of PLO’s negotiations department, referred to Airbnb’s recent decision as a positive first step (November 19, 2018). He reiterated the call to the UN Human Rights Council to publish data on companies that “profit from the Israeli colonialist occupation”[14].
  2. It should be emphasized that the PLO’s Negotiations Department, headed by Erekat, has referred to Airbnb in its publications in recent years in the context of the annexation of Palestinian tourism, and that another company considered by the PLO to be “part of the problem” is Trip Advisor[15].
  3. In January 2016, Erekat demanded that Airbnb stop its activities in West Bank settlements. In an official letter to the company’s CEO, Brian Chesky, Erekat said that by promoting lists of settlements, Airbnb effectively promotes the illegal Israeli colonization of occupied territory[16].
  4. The Palestinian Authority’s representative in Ireland participated in the event at which the above-mentioned petition was distributed, involving leading Irish delegitimization organizations including the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) and Gaza Action Ireland[17].

Apartments advertised for rent by Airbnb in other areas of conflict around the world

  1. Airbnb’s recent decision distinguishes Israel and creates a double standard with other conflict zones in the world where the company continues to advertise rental properties. Thus, a search for rental properties on the Airbnb site using the words “Northern Cyprus[18]“, “Crimea[19]“, “Western Sahara[20]“, “Eritrea[21]” and “Kashmir[22]” yields results of apartments and potential rental properties.

Points to take under consideration:

  1. Unfair approach

There was no dialogue with stakeholders on the Israeli side, neither with the business owners nor with any part of the Israeli government. It is unfair to claim that there was a professional and in-depth examination when in practice there was no discussion with the stakeholders on the Israeli side.

  1. Inconsistent with the UN Global Compact

The company’s move is inconsistent with the UN Global Compact, it unreasonable to expect individuals (in this case, West Bank residents) to assume responsibility for government activity. Moreover, businesses operating in areas of conflict contribute to improving the situation:

A similar campaign was waged against the companies who were building the Jerusalem Light Rail. The French Court of Appeals held that Corporations are not subject to international law, and obligations concern States only. Nor does it apply to private sector entities or to individuals.[23]

As the UN principles put it, even in extreme cases “Where adverse impacts have occurred that the business enterprise has not caused or contributed to, but which are directly linked to its operations, products or services by a business relationship, the responsibility to respect human rights does not require that the enterprise itself provide for remediation, though it may take a role in doing so”.[24]  The UK Supreme Court of UK held that even a manufacturing company employing Israeli citizens in the West Bank cannot be construed as a company’s assisting the Israel government policy with regard to the settlement issue.

The positive contribution of companies, such as Airbnb, to the human rights in the region is that it enables both Palestinians and Israelis to use their homes and/or property to earn extra income, which has a positive effect on the economy in these areas. The individuals who are renting out their homes are acting a lawfully, as is the marketing and use of their homes by tourists. In fact, withdrawal of such services can have adverse human rights impact in this regard. The Supreme Court of the United States recently ruled in the Jesner case, that consideration of human rights in this context includes consideration of the positive role of multi-national corporations in disputed territories, and their ability to create economic stability, which is so often the essential foundation of human rights.

Moreover, the principles of corporate responsibility relate not to where you operate but how you operate, for this reason the company must examine its decision as to how it’s customers (especially those hosting) are acting.

  1. Appearance of BDS – taking sides in a political conflict

Airbnb should take into account that its move may be construed as adopting the highly controversial and polarizing approach of the BDS movement, something which will tarnish Air Bnb’s brand and its political neutrality. In fact, the company’s announcement is tantamount to taking a political stand in a protracted conflict, which can only be resolved by negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians. The adoption of a boycott, which is what Airbnb has essentially undertaken, will serve to increase hostility between the parties to the conflict, particularly as it appears that the decision was influenced official PA officials. Thus the company’s actions not only harm the possibility of an official dialogue between Israel and the PA, but it doesn’t take in to account the realities of life of the Israeli residents of the West Bank.

  1. A classic case of double standard

The company’s decision is a classic example holding Israel to a double standard in in relation to other areas of conflict. Airbnb operates in other countries with disputed territories – in northern Cyprus, the Crimea and Western Sahara). This was already reflected in the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s announcement.

In this context, it should be noted that according to the definition of antisemitism of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, which defines this action as anti-Semitic: “Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation”

Whereas Airbnb stated that “each situation is unique and requires a case-by-case approach.” This allows for unfair or arbitrary distinction in the company’s policy between internationally recognized disputed territories.

[1] https://actions.sumofus.org/a/while-palestinians-are-evicted-from-their-homes-airbnb-makes-money-off-of-stolen-land?ak_proof=1&akid=.1598254.71Iayn&rd=1&t=%20%20

[2] https://org.salsalabs.com/o/301/p/dia/action3/common/public/?action_KEY=18924&track=jvpsh&tag=jvp

[3] http://airbnb.sumofus.org/

[4] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWj9-nHt72s

[5] https://docs.house.gov/meetings/FA/FA18/20160419/104817/HHRG-114-FA18-Wstate-SchanzerJ-20160419.pdf; https://docs.house.gov/meetings/HM/HM05/20160512/104904/HHRG-114-HM05-Wstate-SchanzerJ-20160512.pdf

[6] https://jewishvoiceforpeace.org/jewish-voice-peace-proud-host-palestinian-organizer-rasmea-odeh/

[7] http://www.aljazeera.net/encyclopedia/icons/2017/8/19/%D8%B1%D8%B3%D9%85%D9%8A%D8%A9-%D8%B9%D9%88%D8%AF%D8%A9-%D8%A3%D8%B3%D9%8A%D8%B1%D8%A9-%D9%85%D8%AD%D8%B1%D8%B1%D8%A9-%D9%8A%D8%AA%D9%87%D8%AF%D8%AF%D9%87%D8%A7-%D8%A7%D9%84%D8%AA%D8%B1%D8%AD%D9%8A%D9%84-%D9%85%D9%86-%D8%A3%D9%85%D9%8A%D8%B1%D9%83%D8%A7

[8] https://www.codepink.org/peace_with_iran_delegation_to_iran_2019

[9] https://www.codepink.org/we_women_support_the_iran_nuclear_deal

[10] https://www.codepink.org/iran

[11] https://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/263409/bds-umbrella-group-linked-to-palestinian-terrorist-organizations

[12] https://bdsmovement.net/bnc

[13] http://web.archive.org/web/20081011192013/http:/www.jmcc.org/banner/banner1/bayan/aqsbayan14.htm

[14] https://www.nad.ps/en/media-room/press-releases/dr-saeb-erekat-response-airbnbs-decision-remove-listings-israeli

[15] https://www.nad.ps/sites/default/files/tourism-as-a-tool-to-normalize-the-occupation.pdf ; https://www.nad.ps/sites/default/files/annexation_of_tourism.pdf see especially page 19

[16] http://www.alhaya.ps/arch_page.php?nid=276783

[17] http://maannews.net/Content.aspx?id=851029

[18] https://www.airbnb.com/s/Northern-Cyprus/homes?refinement_paths%5B%5D=%2Fhomes&query=Northern%20Cyprus&adults=0&children=0&infants=0&guests=0&place_id=ChIJF-JCu9E53hQRQGV7lbxVT3Q&allow_override%5B%5D=&s_tag=usN9XTiN

[19] https://www.airbnb.com/s/Crimea/homes?refinement_paths%5B%5D=%2Fhomes&adults=0&children=0&infants=0&guests=0&query=Crimea&place_id=ChIJkfrH7elR6kARkpRoogcKsfY&allow_override%5B%5D=&s_tag=CzawyLOD

[20] https://www.airbnb.com/s/Western-Sahara/homes?refinement_paths%5B%5D=%2Fhomes&adults=0&children=0&infants=0&guests=0&query=Western%20Sahara&place_id=ChIJUyEwIyVIIgwRWtffcxj4prc&allow_override%5B%5D=&s_tag=avpq0J_O

[21] https://www.airbnb.com/s/Eritrea/homes?refinement_paths%5B%5D=%2Fhomes&adults=0&children=0&infants=0&guests=0&query=Eritrea&place_id=ChIJZYW6nT9abRYR-g4SL_AIwhc&allow_override%5B%5D=&s_tag=GoL4W0jL

[22] https://www.airbnb.com/s/homes?refinement_paths%5B%5D=%2Fhomes&adults=0&children=0&infants=0&guests=0&query=Kashmir&allow_override%5B%5D=&s_tag=Lb-aoFsr

[23] J. Crawford, Opinion: Third Party Obligations with respect to Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories”.

[24] http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/GuidingPrinciplesBusinessHR_EN.pdf pg. 25

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