Airbnb denies reports it has cancelled ban on Israeli settlement listings
Home rental company Airbnb has confirmed it is moving ahead with a plan to suspend its listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, disputing earlier reports the US-based company had reversed that decision.
"The reports issued earlier today are inaccurate," the company said in a statement sent to Middle East Eye on Monday afternoon, referring to Israeli media reports that claimed Airbnb has reversed course on the ban on settlement rentals.
While expressing its "unequivocal rejection" of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, Airbnb said it was still working with various stakeholders to suspend those Israeli settlement listings.
Airbnb representatives met with Israel's tourism minister, Yariv Levin, in Jerusalem on Monday, Israeli media reported.
In its statement, the company said meetings with parties involved in the conflict had given it a deeper understanding of the "incredibly complex and emotional issue".
"Airbnb communicated that we are developing the tools needed to implement our policy and that process includes continuing our dialogue with the Government of Israel and other stakeholders," the company said.
Earlier on Monday, Israeli daily Haaretz reported that the company said its settlement policy "will not be implemented". Several other Israeli media outlets also reported on the supposed reversal, which they said had been welcomed by the Israeli tourism ministry.
Airbnb announced last month that it would remove about 200 rental listings in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
The decision came after several years of advocacy from human rights groups, which have argued the listings contribute to discrimination and rights abuses against Palestinians.
Over the past month, Airbnb has come under intense pressure from pro-Israel groups in the US and Israeli government ministers, including Levin, who threatened to limit Airbnb's activities throughout Israel in retaliation for its decision.
Last week, the Illinois Investment Policy Board warned Airbnb that banning listings in settlements violates an anti-BDS law in the Midwestern state, giving the company 90 days to respond.
Launched by 170 Palestinian civil society groups in 2005, the BDS movement seeks to pressure Israel to end its occupation of the Palestinian territories, ensure equal rights for Palestinian citizens of the state, and allow the return of Palestinian refugees.
Approximately 600,000 Israelis lived in more than 200 settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem at the end of 2016, Israeli human rights group Btselem reported.
In a 2016 report, Human Rights Watch found that while the Israeli government is responsible for settlement policies, businesses that choose to locate and expand in the settlements "contribute to Israel’s rights violations".
"Such businesses depend on and contribute to Israel’s unlawful confiscation of Palestinian land and other resources, and facilitate the functioning and growth of settlements. The businesses also benefit from these violations, as well as Israel’s discriminatory policies that privilege settlements at the expense of Palestinians," the group said.