The BDS movement has served as one of the most effective methods for drawing attention to Israel’s occupation of Palestine and apartheid policies — similar to the boycott movements that successfully targeted apartheid South Africa.
SAN FRANCISCO — In a major win for Palestinian human rights and the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement (BDS), the popular apartment-rental website Airbnb has announced plans to remove all listings in the Israeli-occupied West Bank that serve illegal Jewish settlers.
According to the company’s statement, there are currently about 200 rentals available in Israeli West Bank settlements. While the United States government doesn’t restrict American companies like Airbnb from conducting business in Israeli-occupied territory, the West Bank settlements are technically illegal under international law.
This comes at a crucial time when efforts are desperately needed to counter public relations campaigns for Israel’s occupation of Palestine. Despite numerous international agreements and United Nations Security Council resolutions deeming the West Bank settlements illegal, Israel continues its colonialist strategy to steal Palestinian land and change the ethnic makeup in support of its self-declared goal to create a Jewish ethno-state.
Formed in 2005, the BDS movement has served as one of the most effective methods for drawing attention to Israel’s occupation of Palestine and apartheid policies — similar to the boycott movements that successfully targeted apartheid South Africa.
Israeli officials quickly responded to Airbnb’s decision by stating plans to contact their U.S. counterparts in an attempt to slap the rental company with lawsuits for violating anti-boycott laws. Outraged Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan called the rental company “racist,” while other right-wing Israeli politicians urged hosts profiting from the illegal settlements to file individual lawsuits against Airbnb.
“The heads of Airbnb will have to explain why they chose to take a racist political stance against some of Israel’s citizens,” Erdan said.
Former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. and current Knesset member Michael Oren immediately branded the apartment rental company “anti-Semitic,” asserting that “no one should use their services.”
Although Airbnb does not say what directly brought them to their final decision to purge rentals in the illegal settlements, the company’s statement provides a list of points used for evaluation purposes, which includes “whether the existence of listings is contributing to existing human suffering.”
The announcement, posted today, also says that “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.”
In 2016 a coalition came together to pressure Airbnb to get out of the settlements. Today we celebrate a victory that was fueled by partnerships in Palestine, with activists on the ground, including Ahed Tamimi who said to Airbnb "don't come to my occupied land" #Stolenhomes pic.twitter.com/4GAitmmlpn
— JewishVoiceForPeace (@jvplive) November 19, 2018
.@Airbnb ’s decision to leave West Bank settlements is a first step in the right direction to end Airbnb’s profiting from Israel’s theft of indigenous Palestinians’ lands and natural resources. But the campaign continues. #StolenHomes
Read more: https://t.co/B1AqqNpEY2
— BDS Movement (@BDSmovement) November 20, 2018
Airbnb’s major change of heart
Airbnb’s new ban on rentals in illegal West Bank Jewish-only settlements comes as quite a surprise. Just four months ago, the website removed a Chicago host’s profile as hate speech for stating that Zionism (as well as racism, homophobia, and other hatred) would not be tolerated at their residence.
The United States government implemented a series of anti-boycott laws in the 1970s as a tactic for punishing and deterring any American companies from avoiding trade with Israel. This year, however, further amendments to anti-boycott legislation have made it easier than ever for pro-Israel entities to file lawsuits, not only against companies but also individuals who speak out against Israeli occupation.
The American Civil Liberties Union has criticized these updates to the anti-boycott legislation as unconstitutional. In October of 2017, a Texas community forced its residents to sign a pledge that they would not boycott Israel if they wanted to receive hurricane relief funds.
Despite aggressive attacks on journalists, medics, and children, Palestinians have held weekly protests in Gaza for over six months to demand their right to return to their homeland. These efforts are supported by UN resolution 194, which states that refugees have a legal right to return to their homelands.
Top Photo | Protesters hold up placards reading ‘Boycott Israel’ during a demonstration showing solidarity with Palestinians in Paris, France, 31 July 2014. Christpohe Karaba | EPA
Randi Nord is a MintPress News staff writer. She is also co-founder of Geopolitics Alert where she covers U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East with a special focus on Yemen.