Booking.com urged to emulate Airbnb, remove Jewish settlements from listings

Updated Nov 21 2018

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Airbnb said it will remove such listings, just ahead of the release of a Human Rights Watch report criticising the inclusion of settlements. —AFP/File photo
Airbnb said it will remove such listings, just ahead of the release of a Human Rights Watch report criticising the inclusion of settlements. —AFP/File photo

ADEI AD (West Bank): Rights activists on Tuesday urged Booking.com to follow the example of Airbnb and withdraw listings for rentals in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank, even as Israel called the move “disgusting” and threatened legal action.

Airbnb said it will remove such listings, just ahead of the release of a Human Rights Watch report criticising the inclusion of settlements.

Israel strongly denounced Airbnb’s decision and threatened legal action against the company, while Palestinian officials welcomed it.

The US-based rights group HRW issued its report on Tuesday and called on Booking.com to follow Airbnb’s “positive step”.

“By ending its brokering of rentals in illegal settlements on land off-limits to Palestinians, Airbnb has taken a stand against discrimination and land confiscation and theft,” Omar Shakir, HRW’s director for Israel and the Palestinian territories, said.

“It is an important and welcome step and we encourage other companies like Booking.com to follow their lead and stop listing in settlements.” HRW issued the report on the online reservations firms, entitled “Bed and Breakfast on Stolen Land,” along with Israeli NGO Kerem Navot.

It says Airbnb, based in the United States, listed at least 139 properties in West Bank settlements between March and July.

Booking.com, based in the Netherlands, had 26 as of July, it said.

A total of 17 are on land Israel acknowledges is privately owned by Palestinians, according to HRW. “Israelis and foreigners may rent properties in settlements, but Palestinian ID holders are effectively barred,” HRW said.

That is “the only example in the world the organisations found in which Airbnb hosts have no choice but to discriminate against guests based on national or ethnic origin,” it said.

Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin on Tuesday threatened legal action against Airbnb in the United States and Israel over its move, branding it “hypocritical and disgusting”.

Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2018