Israeli Minister Calls for Airbnb Boycott
An Israeli cabinet minister called on Wednesday for a boycott of Airbnb after the home-rental company said it was removing listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
"I call today on all those who support Israel and oppose discriminatory boycotts: they should cease using Airbnb and turn to other services," Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan told a diplomatic conference hosted by the Jerusalem Post newspaper.
"By the way, Booking.com is a great service," added Erdan, the point-man in Israeli government efforts to combat pro-Palestinian boycotts.
The US-based rights group Huma Rights Watch called on Tuesday Booking.com to follow Airbnb's "positive step".
Airbnb said on Monday it would remove some 200 settlement listings after hearing criticism from people who "believe companies should not profit on lands where people have been displaced".
Palestinians who want to establish an independent state taking in the West Bank have welcomed the San Francisco-based firm’s move. It does not apply to East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights, other territories Israel captured in a 1967 war but which Israel has annexed, unlike the West Bank.
"Airbnb took a decision in the right direction to stop dealings with Israeli settlements, consistent with international legitimacy," Wasel Abu Youssef, a senior official with the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organization, told Reuters.
"Erdan's incitement comes in the course of continued attempts by the Israeli extremist government to intimidate companies, parties and individuals who try to try to take good decisions that agree with international resolutions."
Booking.com and Airbnb did not immediately respond to Reuters emails seeking fresh comment.
Israeli Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, addressing Wednesday's conference separately, backed Erdan's call to boycott Airbnb and suggested Israel also deploy its own anti-discrimination laws.
Israel has said it would turn to the Trump administration and could back lawsuits against Airbnb within US states that have legislated against anti-Israel boycotts.
In Israel, one 2017 law empowers courts to award cash compensation to claimants who prove they have been denied goods or services because of where they live.
"I checked yesterday with my office, with the attorney-general, whether we can operate this law, and the answer is positive," Shaked said. "We need to do anything we can in order to fight them back in order that they will change their decision."
Tourism Minister Yariv Levin said Tuesday that Israel will seek to impose "very high taxes" on Airbnb in order to restrict its operations in Israel. He also said Israel will encourage hosts in settlements to sue the company to make it "pay" for its decision.
Israeli settlements are considered illegal under international law and major roadblocks to peace, as they are built on land Palestinians see as part of their future state.
Around 400,000 Israelis live in West Bank settlements, which range in size from tiny hamlets to large towns. A further 200,000 live in settlements in occupied east Jerusalem.