Maya Ilany

Airbnb has reaffirmed Israel's legitimacy within the Green Line by removing West Bank properties

Israel should be glad to see an international brand like Airbnb actively encouraging tourists to visit, says Yachad's Maya Ilany

November 21, 2018 09:06

Airbnb has announced that it will remove properties for rent in Jewish settlements in the West Bank from its platform.

The Israeli response to the decision was swift.

Minister for Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan, who is responsible for the fight against the BDS movement, said the decision was no less than antisemitic and suggested the company had surrendered to the BDS movement which “does not differentiate between the whole of Israel and Judea and Samaria”.

Actually, the whole point of Airbnb’s new policy is to differentiate between Israel within the Green Line and the West Bank settlements beyond it. 

The only ones conflating the two are Erdan himself and those who want to boycott the whole of Israel.

Settler leader, Oded Revivi, said this decision runs counter to Airbnb’s mission of helping “to bring people together”.

Yet the mission of expanding Jewish Settlements in the West Bank has nothing to do with bringing people together – it drives people further apart and blocks any chance of peace in Israel-Palestine.

The most surprising response came from one of Airbnb’s biggest Israeli supporters – the Tourism Minister, Yariv Levin.

Mr Levin has long been a stanch supporter of Airbnb’s Israeli operation despite its impact on the country's already overheated housing market.

At a time when many other countries were imposing restrictions on Airbnb, Mr Levin’s office was actively promoting it.

That is, until Airbnb decided to remove 200 West Bank listings from its platform. Now Mr Levin says that he is going “to restrict the ability of Airbnb to work” in Israel and may also “put a very high tax” on the company’s activity there.

His response is typical of Israel’s right-wing government that puts the interests of settlements ahead of the interests of Israel’s majority within the Green Line.

Beneath all this rhetoric, Airbnb’s decision is completely consistent with agreements Israel itself has signed with the EU which excludes settlements.

Anyone who claims that this policy is somehow discriminatory or racist needs to answer two questions. First, how exactly can Airbnb be boycotting Israel when it advertises Israeli properties inside the Green Line?

Second, if West Bank settlements are just a normal part of Israel, then why was the most right-wing government in Israel’s history content to sign an economic agreement with the EU that excludes them?

Contrary to Airbnb’s critics, the company has effectively reaffirmed Israel’s legitimacy as a sovereign state within the Green Line.

The company continues to advertise Israeli properties within that border and any supporter of Israel should be glad to see an international brand like Airbnb recognising Israel’s legitimacy and actively encouraging tourists to visit it.

While removing 200 West Bank listings from Airbnb will not put the Zionist dream at risk, expanding West Bank settlements in order to block any chance of peace may very well do so.

The only way to ensure Israel has a safe future as a Jewish and democratic state is by ending the occupation and reaching an agreement with the Palestinians.

West Bank settlements are not part from the Zionist dream, they are a deviation from it.

Maya Ilany is the deputy director of Yachad UK

November 21, 2018 09:06

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