Video highlights how Airbnb profits from Israeli occupation (Jewish Voice for Peace)
By Ali Abunimah, The Electronic Intifada, 23 May 2016
Activists are stepping up pressure on Airbnb, the popular travel website, over its listings of accommodation in settlements built by Israel in the occupied West Bank.
This new short video released by Jewish Voice for Peace urges travelers not to rent vacation homes in settlements, which are often not clearly identified as such in the website’s listings.
“You’re basically collaborating with settlers who steal Palestinian land,” one activist says in the video. “I implore you not to go to Airbnb in the settlements.”
“Airbnb makes a profit off of stolen land and the displacement of Palestinians,” the video states.
Airbnb allows individuals to rent out their homes to vacationers and takes a cut of their profit.
More than 146,000 people have signed a petition at stolenhomes.org urging Airbnb to end its business in the settlements.
“Airbnb’s anti-discrimination policy states that they prohibit listings that promote racism, discrimination, or harm to individuals or groups, and require all users to comply with local laws,” the petition states. “Yet, listing vacation rentals in illegal settlements promotes structural discrimination, theft of Palestinians’ land and direct violations of international law.”
The campaign, which uses the social media hashtag #stolenhomes, is supported by several groups including the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, American Muslims for Palestine, CODEPINK and the US Palestinian Community Network.
The campaign is stepping up at a time when Israel has been carrying out some of its biggest confiscations of Palestinian land in decades.
On Sunday, for instance, Israeli settlers used bulldozers to level agricultural land in the northern occupied West Bank seized from its Palestinian owners to expand nearby Jewish-only settlements.
In a landmark report in January, Human Rights Watch called on all corporations to completely end their business activities in Israeli settlements.
“Settlement businesses unavoidably contribute to Israeli policies that dispossess and harshly discriminate against Palestinians, while profiting from Israel’s theft of Palestinian land and other resources,” Arvind Ganesan, the director of the group’s business and human rights division, said.
“The only way for businesses to comply with their own human rights responsibilities is to stop working with and in Israeli settlements,” Ganesan added.
While Airbnb markets itself as a means for people to make a little extra money by taking in short-term lodgers, it has contributed to housing shortages in some cities, with properties being taken out of long-term rental and placed into the more lucrative short-term vacation market.
Often, the rentals are run not by individual homeowners but by professional companies.
Berlin recently banned Airbnb rentals of entire apartments in order to protect the supply of affordable housing in the German capital.
And despite the company’s anti-discrimination policy, a recent experimental study from the Harvard Business School found that Airbnb hosts were significantly less likely to accept guests with African American-sounding names than otherwise identical guests with white-sounding names.
Like other Internet-based “sharing economy” firms, Airbnb is often credited with “disrupting” established business models. The merits of that disruption are debatable at best.
In the occupied West Bank, however, campaigners have no doubt that the company is helping Israel disrupt and destroy Palestinian lives while upholding an unjust status quo.