Activists call for mass boycott of Airbnb on May 15

Occupied West Bank (QNN)- After home rental company Airbnb reversed its decision to delist illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, a Palestinian campaign is calling on people worldwide to deactivate their Airbnb accounts on Wednesday, May 15.

The global coalition behind the #deactivateAirbnb campaign asks people around the world to deactivate their Airbnb accounts on May 15, which is the 71st anniversary of the Nakba, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency said.

Widespread protests are expected in the Palestinian territories on the anniversary of the Nakba, or “catastrophe”, when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled or were forced from their homes in 1948 as Israel was established.

The #deactivateairbnb campaign, organised by the Ramallah-based Palestine Institute for Public Diplomacy, is one of several fronts Palestinians are pursuing to pressure Airbnb to delist properties in settlements, which are illegal under international law.

In November, 2018, the Palestinians lauded the US-based home sharing company when it announced it would remove about 200 Israeli listings in West Bank settlements — “the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians”, as the company described the issue then. Activists had for years been pressuring the company to make this move, arguing it was benefiting from Israeli business on occupied Palestinian land.

The removals, though, never actually happened. In January, a group of Americans filed lawsuits against Airbnb, arguing that the company’s policy was discriminatory as it only applied to Jewish Israeli residents of the West Bank and not to Palestinians as well.

In mid-March Palestinians filed a motion to challenge a lawsuit in Delaware, arguing that Palestinians, and not Israelis, were the victims of discrimination due to Airbnb’s West Bank settlement offerings. The case is ongoing.

Then, amid Israel’s parliamentary elections in early April, Airbnb quietly announced that it was reversing its decision to remove occupied West Bank settlements from its website in a settlement with lawsuits brought against it.

Airbnb said proceeds from settler homes will instead be donated to non-profit humanitarian groups around the world.

In January, human rights organisation Amnesty International issued a report that accused Airbnb and other travel firms of profiting from “war crimes” by “normalising” illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

“Israel” captured the West Bank in 1967. The 1994 Oslo Peace Accords slated the West Bank to be part of a Palestinian state; instead, over the last two decades, Israel has extended its physical presence and control over the disputed territory.

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