Global online rental marketplace Airbnb says it will remove its listings in the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, in a move that comes after years of pressure from Palestinian and human rights groups.
The decision on Monday will lead to about 200 listings being removed from the popular accommodation website, which allows home-owners to rent out rooms, apartments and houses to people.
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“We concluded that we should remove listings in Israeli settlements in the West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians,” a statement on the Airbnb website said.
The removal of the listings will take place in the coming days, a spokesperson for Airbnb told the Reuters news agency.
The company said it came to the conclusion based on an internal framework used to judge how it handles listings in occupied territories around the world.
“US law permits companies like Airbnb to engage in business in these territories. At the same time, many in the global community have stated that companies should not do business here because they believe companies should not profit on lands where people have been displaced,” the statement said.
“Others believe that companies should not withdraw business operations from these areas,” it added.
“We know that people will disagree with this decision and appreciate their perspective. This is a controversial issue.”
Human Rights Watch’s director for Israel and the Palestinian territories, Omar Shakir, said Airbnb’s decision was a “welcome step”.
“Companies like Booking.com should follow suit,” he wrote on Twitter.
Illegal under international law
All Israeli settlements are illegal under international law.
In 2016, it came under fire for listing dozens of rooms and apartments in West Bank settlements as being in “Israel” rather than Palestinian Territories
At the time, Husam Zomlot, the ambassador-at-large for Palestine, told Al Jazeera Airbnb was “promoting stolen property and land”.
In a scathing 2016 report, Human Rights Watch said companies that operate within or in coordination with Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories benefit from and contribute to an unlawful system that violates the rights of Palestinians.
Settlement expansion, which has surged under Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has long been viewed as a major roadblock to a viable Palestinian state.
Israeli settlements are considered a violation of international law and major stumbling blocks to peace efforts as they are built on land the Palestinians want for their future state including occupied East Jerusalem.
Some 600,000 Israelis live in settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem – territories captured by Israel in the 1967 war.