When Airbnb last month (Nov. 20) announced plans to suspend almost 200 listings in the West Bank, they were met with fury from Israeli politicians, who accused them of discrimination and “a disgraceful surrender” to the pressure of pro-Palestinian and human rights organizations alike.
After meeting with these politicians, however, the company’s plans were reportedly axed, Israel’s tourism minister, Yariv Levin, revealed today (Dec. 17). Levin reportedly met with Airbnb vice-president Chris Lahan, after coordinating with other high-ranking Israeli officials over the best way to ensure equal treatment for all Israeli citizens, regardless of where they live. Haaretz reported (paywall) that Airbnb told the newspaper that the company planned to continue its dialogue with the Israeli government.
Update: Later in the day, Airbnb said the statement to Haaretz had been released “in error.” But Haaretz reporter Noa Landau said on Twitter that the company’s English-language and Hebrew statements appeared to differ.
Airbnb has not yet responded to requests for clarification from Quartz.
Just weeks ago, numerous organizations were praising Airbnb for taking a stance against settlements widely believed to be illegal under international law. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International alike lauded the decision, even while Palestinian groups called for further action from the California-based company. The territory, which is roughly the size of Delaware, has been occupied by Israel since the 1967 Six-Day War. It is home to around 500,000 Israelis as well as close to 3 million Palestinians.
At the time, Airbnb justified its decision in a statement: “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.” It’s not clear precisely what prompted the new developments—though threats of legal action and other types of retaliation from right-wing Israeli politicians may have proven too persuasive to ignore. Some 25 states—including California, where Airbnb is based—have legislation prohibiting boycotting Israeli goods and services, which Israeli politicians suggested would inviolate the company’s decision and expose them to possible law-breaking.
This story was updated to reflect Airbnb’s statements in both Hebrew and English.