West Bank Listings Lands Airbnb in Hot Water

Promotion of illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory is  the latest charge that has been thrown against Airbnb as the travel website comes under continuous fire for the property listings which have sent critics talking against it.

Profiting from properties that are part of Israeli settlements located in the West Bank and mislabeling such properties are the allegations that have bene leveled against the online vacation rental company in the social media by its users. Under the international law, all of the Israeli settlements located in the West Bank are deemed illegal.

All settlements past the Green Line are an obstacle to the peace process between Israel and Palestine and are against the law, contends the United Nations. A border that was drawn up in 1949 as part of an armistice agreement between Israel and neighbors including Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria is termed as the Green Line.

Settlements like Tekoa, Ma’ale Rehavam and Kfar Eldad, which were listed as being part of Israel rather than Palestine, claims a search by CNBC rentals in West Bank settlements.

The website listed a three-bedroom property, one of the Tekoa listings  and only a 15 minute drive from Jerusalem, included a three-bedroom property which boasted an orchard, balcony and grape arbor “furnished in authentic oriental style” was was available to visitors for $204 per night.

While some went to the extent of calling for a boycott of Airbnb, a large number of users, from the troubled region and elsewhere in the world, took to social media sites like Twitter and Facebook and attacked and chastised Airbnb for the listings.

Legal issues could pose the larger problem for Airbnb while the listings may raise political fervor, said Yossi Mekelberg, a professor of international relations at Regent’s University London, and an associate fellow at Chatham House while talking to CNBC.

After unintentionally making a booking in a mislabeled settlement in illegally occupied territory, someone could end up in real physical danger, was the worst case scenario that he could foresee resulting from the listings on Airbnb.

“Others may say ‘you put us under risk’,” he said.

For any commercial business, controversies like this could be damaging in any case, Mekelberg said.

“We follow laws and regulations on where we can do business and investigate concerns raised about specific listings,” Airbnb was qupoted as saying in the media.

“We also encourage guests to communicate with their host about their listing long before a trip begins. Discrimination has no place on our platform and we investigate any claims we receive,” Mekelberg said.

Whether any listings have since been removed or changed was not clarified by Airbnb.

(Adapted from CNBC)


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