Settlers v. Airbnb
On 19 November, Airbnb announced that it had removed from its website around 200 properties in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. The global travel agency explained that it had decided to 'act responsibly' after considering the settlements’ 'disputed' character and their contribution to 'human suffering'.
The timing of Airbnb's announcement probably wasn't coincidental. The next day, Human Rights Watch released a report, Bed and Breakfast on Stolen Land, in which Palestinians testify that dozens of properties listed on Airbnb and Booking.com were built on their expropriated land. The human rights group concludes that by making settlements profitable and thus facilitating the unlawful transfer of Israel’s citizens to colonised land, the companies are complicit in war crimes.
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement praised Airbnb’s decision as a 'first step in the right direction'; Israel’s tourism minister, Yariv Levin, said it was racist, adding that the Israeli government would raise taxes on Airbnb and encourage hosts in the settlements to sue the travel agency.
Several hosts duly filed a class-action lawsuit in the Jerusalem District Court, arguing that Airbnb routinely rents 'apartments in war or disputed areas and apartments in areas where tens of thousands of people have been expelled from their homes', such as Northern Cyprus and Tibet. 'The only thing that is forbidden,' the petitioners say, 'is to be a settler in the State of Israel.'
By comparing the West Bank to other occupied territories around the world, the settlers' suit does at least implicitly acknowledge that their homes are built on land stolen from Palestinians. By claiming that Airbnb's decision discriminates against them, the settlers are asserting their human right to colonise.