ADL Letter to Airbnb on its Decision to Delist Rentals in Israeli Settlements

In a letter to Airbnb, ADL raises questions about the company's recent decision to not list rentals in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. 

Brian Chesky
Chief Executive Officer
Airbnb, Inc.
888 Brannan Street
San Francisco, CA

Dear Brian:

For the past several years, the Boycott, Divest, and Sanction (BDS) movement has worked around the world to isolate and delegitimize the state of Israel. The predominant drive of the BDS campaign and its leadership is not criticism of policies, but the demonization and delegitimization of Israel. BDS campaigns promote a biased and simplistic approach to the complex Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and present this dispute over territorial and nationalist claims as the fault of only one party: Israel. The BDS campaign does not support Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts, and rejects a two-state solution to the conflict.

Many of the founding goals of the BDS movement, including denying the Jewish people the universal right of self-determination – along with many of the strategies employed in BDS campaigns – are anti-Semitic. Many individuals involved in the starting and running of BDS campaigns are driven by opposition to Israel’s very existence as a Jewish state. And, all too often, BDS advocates employ anti-Semitic rhetoric and narratives to isolate and demonize Israel.

That is why we were dismayed to read about Airbnb’s recent announcement to not list rentals in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. With this decision, the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and its supporters will be further emboldened and view it as a victory for their hateful campaign against Israel.

Also, as best as we can tell, Airbnb has not de-listed rentals in any other disputed areas. Your website currently lists properties in Northern Cyprus, Tibet, the Western Saharan region, and other territories where people have been displaced. Yet only Israeli settlements are being singled out for de-listing by Airbnb, a decision which many see as a double standard set by your company. Make no mistake: double standards when it comes to Israel cause us great concern.

Moreover, it is far from clear how and why Airbnb came to this decision. We have several questions for you that demand an answer:

  1. Your statement explaining the decision suggests that this new policy was taken in response to sentiment within the global community that believes “companies should not do business here because they believe companies should not profit on lands where people have been displaced.” Is Airbnb planning on taking this approach with any other disputed areas, including those listed above?
  2. You wrote that you will “consult with a range of experts and our community of stakeholders” when evaluating “listings in occupied territories,” and you spent “considerable time” doing so in this case. With whom did you consult?
  3. You wrote that you will “evaluate whether the existence of listings is contributing to existing human suffering.” How does a rental in the West Bank meet this criterion?
  4. You wrote that Airbnb will “remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.”

a. Which listings does this cover?

b. Does it include listings in the Golan Heights?

c. Does it include listings in Israel’s capital, Jerusalem, that are in its Old City or over the Green Line?

Finally, in your statement, you write that the “core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians” are the West Bank settlements. While we do not deny that determining the status of Israeli settlements is an important part of any two-state solution to the conflict, this is a myopic view that places all the blame at Israel’s door. It ignores the fact that upon the founding of Israel in 1948 – with borders that did not include the West Bank – five Arab countries invaded the fledgling nation in order to wipe it off the face of the Earth. Seventy years later, Egypt and Jordan are the only two Arab nations that recognize the right of the state of Israel to exist.

During the Oslo Peace Process, Israel offered the Palestinians significant land concessions in the West Bank, but the Palestinian team walked away from the deal. Instead of working to promote peace, there are voices in Palestinian society as well as others in the Arab world, who reject Israel’s legitimacy and call for a violent end to Israel itself. Unfortunately, the “core of the dispute” is that too many do not want a Jewish state to exist.

As an organization committed to a two-state solution and to an equitable and just resolution of the conflict, we share your company’s “hope for a durable, lasting peace” in the region. However, achieving that goal demands a clear-eyed view about the conflict.

We look forward to your responses to these questions.

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Greenblatt
CEO and National Director
Anti-Defamation League

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