Palestinians demand Airbnb end operations in West Bank

Palestinians demand Airbnb cease operations, businesses in occupied West Bank due to human rights violations by Israel

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Airbnb international home-sharing site in Nofei Prat settlement at the West Bank.

The Human Rights Watch said that businesses operating in Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank contribute to and are using abusive practices which violate the rights of Palestinians, according to a report released on Tuesday.

The complaint coincide with Palestinian’s claim that, Airbnb, like other companies doing business in the West Bank, helps develop Israel’s settlement enterprise.

The Human Rights Watch said that businesses operating in settlements contribute to "an inherently unlawful and abusive system that violates the rights of Palestinians."  

"Any international company like Airbnb that profits from the occupation and from our blood must be held accountable and brought to justice," said Husam Zomlot, a Palestinian ambassador at-large and former adviser to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Last week, a senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat sent a letter to Airbnb's CEO demanding the company cease working with settlers.

While the Human Rights Watch report said it was not calling for a boycott, it urged businesses to cease their settlement operations.

The report said Palestinian laborers in the settlements are often paid well below Israeli minimum wage, and that companies operating in settlements receive preferential treatment over Palestinian rivals. It followed repeated claims by World Bank and others that Israeli policy in the West Bank has stifled Palestinian development.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon rejected the report's conclusions as well as the criticism against Airbnb. "The Palestinians should stop whining and take their fate in their own hands and stop blaming Israel for their incapacity to build their own economy," he said.

In an email, Airbnb said it "follows laws and regulations on where we can do business." It said it encourages guests to talk to their host about the listing before any trip and that the platform uses Google Maps to determine locations— a website on which Jewish settlements, as well as Palestinian cities, are not listed with an affiliated country.

Under its terms of service, Airbnb specifies that it will not accept responsibility for the accuracy of listings posted on the site, saying this lies with hosts.

In the 1967 Middle East war, Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem and later annexed the latter, declaring it part of its eternal, indivisible capital, a move which has never been recognised internationally.

Palestinians seek a state in the West Bank and Gaza with East Jerusalem as their capital.

TRTWorld and agencies