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Airbnb Says It Will No Longer Post Listings In Israeli Settlements In The West Bank


Today Airbnb said it's removing listings for stays in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Companies are under increased pressure to stop doing business there. Israeli officials say Israel is being singled out. They plan to take action against the company. NPR's Daniel Estrin has more from Jerusalem.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: Airbnb posted an eight-paragraph statement about this online today. It said until now, it allowed rental listings in Israeli settlements in the West Bank despite criticism because it wanted to help bring people together. But it says it spoke to experts and has now decided to remove the listings, saying settlements are, quote, "at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians." Airbnb says there are about 200 such listings, and they'll be taken down soon. It says it will take a look at other disputed territories on a case-by-case basis. The group Human Rights Watch says it lobbied Airbnb on this for the last two years. Omar Shakir is with Human Rights Watch.

OMAR SHAKIR: They're in essence helping to broker rentals on land stolen from Palestinians for which those Palestinians themselves are barred from entering.

ESTRIN: Israel captured the West Bank 51 years ago and built Jewish settlements there. Most countries reject that move and see the West Bank as subject to negotiations. And Palestinians must receive Israeli military permits in order to visit Israeli settlements. Shakir welcomed Airbnb's decision.

SHAKIR: It's an important recognition of the fact that business activity in settlements invariably contributes to really serious human rights abuses. And it's incumbent on businesses to stop operating in or with settlements.

ESTRIN: Airbnb is one of many companies that have faced pressure amid global calls to stop doing business in the West Bank. Eliana Passentin is an Israeli citizen who lives in the settlement of Eli in the West Bank. She's originally from San Francisco. And she says she's rented her home several times on Airbnb to tourists from Canada and Nigeria. She says they come for the attractions in the area.

ELIANA PASSENTIN: There's mountain biking, jeeping (ph), ATVs, about 14 boutique wineries in the immediate area. So lot of people come for the wineries, for the hike, the biking. There's really a ton to do.

ESTRIN: She rejects Airbnb's decision.

PASSENTIN: It doesn't make any sense whatsoever. They've become political. And instead of building bridges, they're building fences and taking people - an entire area in Israel away from their website, which is - it's crazy. It doesn't make any sense.

ESTRIN: Israel's tourism minister called the decision disgraceful and says he'll try to limit Airbnb's business in Israel. Another government minister said the company was singling out this conflict among many others in the world and called on Israelis affected to sue Airbnb. Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Jerusalem. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Daniel Estrin is NPR's international correspondent in Jerusalem.