A US company that owns and operates the world’s largest online property rental platform. Lists rental properties in illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine and in the Golan Heights.
Airbnb Inc is a publicly traded company based in San Francisco that owns and operates the world’s largest online property rental platform. Airbnb allows customers to sign up either as hosts, to rent out their properties, or as guests, to book these properties. The company takes a commission of 3-5% of every booking from hosts, and a larger commission of up to 20% from guests. As of 2020, Airbnb had over 7.4 million listings in around 100,000 cities and more than 220 countries and regions. In 2020, the company’s revenue was $2.5 billion.
Airbnb has listed rental properties in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Golan Heights. As of 2018, Airbnb had some 200 property listings in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, not including the ones in East Jerusalem. Amnesty International documented an additional 100 listings in occupied East Jerusalem and the occupied Golan Heights. In addition, Airbnb’s listings indicate that the location of these properties are not in the West Bank, but in Israel.
In November 2018, Airbnb announced it would de-list properties in West Bank Israeli settlements, but continue to allow listings in the occupied Golan Heights and East Jerusalem. The company had already previously removed listings in occupied Crimea. In April 2019, after facing backlash from the Israeli government and legal challenges, the company reversed its decision and decided to keep these listings. As a result, Airbnb was later included in the 2020 UN database of companies doing business in occupied Palestinian territory.
Airbnb’s actions contribute to the illegal settlement economy by driving tourism and providing jobs and income, financially supporting continued settlement existence and expansion, in violation of international law. In addition, the company is involved in discrimination against West Bank Palestinians since, unlike their Israeli neighbors or foreign tourists, they cannot access the properties listed in settlements. By labeling the location of these properties as inside Israel, the company is also normalizing the illegal occupation of Palestinian land and misleading its customers, obscuring the fact that payments are supporting the settlement industry.
The company’s involvement also raises concerns of pillage, as it is gaining a portion of the rental fees without the freely given consent of the legal landowners. According to the international laws of belligerent occupation, an occupying power may appropriate property only for military necessity or for the exclusive benefit of the occupied population. At least 88 of the settlement listings were built either on land that Israel designated as “state land” or on land Israel has acknowledged was privately owned by Palestinians, according to Human Rights Watch and Kerem Navot. Although Airbnb’s business in illegal settlements presents a risk to its investors, the company failed to mention it as a risk factor in its IPO filings.