Airbnb removes Israeli West Bank listings, sparking outcry

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Listing five points in a "decision-making framework", Airbnb included an evaluation of "whether the existence of listings is contributing to existing human suffering" and a determination "whether the existence of listings in the occupied territory has a direct connection to the larger dispute in the region". "We know that people will disagree with this decision and appreciate their perspective".

Airbnb's actions came a day before the planned release of a report from the Human Rights Watch documenting what the organization describes as "human rights harms of #Airbnb business in settlements", the organization said on Twitter.

"We will approach the USA government because 25 USA states have sanctions against American companies that boycott Israel", Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said on Israeli Army Radio.

Minister for Tourism Yariv Levin lambasted the website as "discriminatory" and called for retaliation to "limit the company's activity throughout the country", according to local newspaper the Times of Israel.

Nick Papas, a spokesman for Airbnb, declined to comment on the officials' statements.

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Airbnb has announced that it is removing listings of rentals in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, saying they are "at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians".

The US-based company said it now has about 200 listings in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and made its decision after speaking to "various experts", including critics of Airbnb's listings in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Israel's West Bank settlements are in violation of global law, which states that an occupying power can not transfer its civilian population into occupied territory. "We call upon the people of Israel to visit us in Kfar Etzion, and as an appropriate Zionist response, we are preparing for the construction of new B&B (bed and breakfast) vacation rentals".

Israel's official position is that the territory in the West Bank is disputed, not occupied.

An investigation by +972 Mag in 2016 found that those booking rentals through the site would have no indication they were browsing illegally built properties on Palestinian land.

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There are approximately 400,000 Jewish settlers living in illegal settlements in the West Bank, and as many as 350,000 in West Jerusalem. Human Rights Watch in particular has campaigned for Airbnb to take this step.

Despite the vote, the USA went ahead with the embassy transfer on May 14, triggering demonstrations in the occupied Palestinian territories, Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia, Algeria, Iraq, Morocco and other Muslim countries.

The HRW report says that between March and July 2018, Airbnb had listed at least 139 properties in West Bank settlements on its platform, while Booking.com listed 26 such properties as of July.

And the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a US-based Jewish human rights organisation, urged Jewish communities around the world to boycott Airbnb in the wake of its decision.

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