Airbnb is preventing Palestinian hosts from listing their homes in the occupied West Bank
|Yumna Patel – December 11, 2018
Mondoweiss has learned that Airbnb is currently preventing Palestinian hosts from listing their homes in the occupied West Bank.
When attempting to list a property for rent in a Palestinian city in the West Bank, users are denied by the website, and given a message saying “country code is invalid.”
Mondoweiss attempted to post a listing in the West Bank cities of Bethlehem, Ramallah, and Nablus, and received the same notification.
Airbnb and other websites that require addresses and GPS coordinates have historically had issues with users in places like the West Bank, where many Palestinian areas do not have formal residential addresses.
But when speaking with an Israeli Airbnb customer representative, the rep told a Mondoweiss reporter that the issue was not with the lack of a formal address for the listing, but that their listing in the city of Bethlehem was not being approved because they were in the West Bank.
When asked if it was a possible website glitch, and that Palestinian listings were accidentally being affected due to their proximity to settlements, the representative said “it is not an issue with the algorithm.”
Mondoweiss spoke to a customer service rep in the US, and received a similar answer: any listings coming out of the West Bank were not currently being approved by Airbnb’s website — regardless if the listing is in a Palestinian city, or in an Israeli settlement.
Any further questions were referred to the company’s press office.
This comes just weeks after Airbnb’s landmark decision to pull out of Israeli settlements which are built in the occupied West Bank in contravention of international law. The move was hailed as a win for BDS activists, and widely criticized by Israeli officials and the pro-Israel lobby in the US.
In its press release at the time, Airbnb said the decision would be affecting some 200 listings in West Bank settlements.
The company made no mention of any effects on hundreds of Palestinian listings in the territory.
When further inquiring as to why Palestinian listings were not being approved, the US customer service representative referred to the company’s November press release, saying “this is what we got from the company.”
Since that November decision, Airbnb has face major backlash from Israel and its supporters, who say Israeli settlers are being discriminated against .
According to a Forbes report, Airbnb is now facing threats of boycotts from several US cities, and that several U.S. states are researching whether the company has broken state laws by prohibiting the listings in settlements.
Though no official date was announced at the time as to when the Israeli settlement listings would be taken down, it seems that the company has acted quite fast.
When searching for rental properties in major Israeli settlements across the West Bank, like Ma’ale Adumim and Gush Etzion, virtually no Israeli listings in the area come up.
Instead, Airbnb provides a list of the Palestinian listings in the nearest geographical location to the searched settlement.
If Airbnb’s decision is in fact affecting Palestinian hosts in the West Bank, it is seemingly only affecting new hosts.
Listings that existed before November’s decision are still up on the website, and available for travelers to rent out. Mondoweiss spoke to Palestinian Airbnb hosts in the West Bank, who said they hadn’t noticed any changes made to their existing accounts since the decision.
Only when attempting to post a new listing in the West Bank are Airbnb hosts denied.
Despite the changes happening to Airbnb’s operations in the “disputed territory” of the West Bank, the company has continued to operate in Israeli occupied East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.
Mondoweiss has reached out to the Airbnb press office for statement.