Airbnb’s decision to prohibit Israeli Jews from using its listing services in the disputed West Bank has drawn the ire of Republicans in Congress and in some states. Some lawmakers argue that the tech company is violating anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) legislation that prevents pro-BDS companies from doing business with U.S. companies. The BDS movement seeks to isolate and boycott Israel, with the end goal of eventually eliminating the Jewish state.
“Airbnb’s actions, sadly, have contributed to the rising tide of anti-Semitism that we’ve seen happening all over the world,” Sen. Ted Cruz told the Washington Free Beacon on Wednesday. “They caved to pressure from the anti-Israel boycott movement, which promotes falsehoods in its campaigns against the world’s only Jewish state.”
Florida Governor-elect Ron DeSantis has also pledged to take legal action, if necessary, to stop Florida government employees from using Airbnb, should the policy continue.
— Joseph Sabag (@josephsabag) November 26, 2018
Outgoing Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner is also looking into taking potential action against Airbnb.
“There are 26 states with anti-BDS laws,” Aaron Bandler of the Jewish Journal reports, adding that “Congress is attempting to pass a law that would sanction United States entities that engage in boycotts of Israeli businesses in Judea and Samaria.”
Last week, the popular rental housing marketplace banned Israeli Jews from using its listing services if they happen to live in the disputed West Bank, or Judea and Samaria. Yet Palestinians living there are still allowed to use Airbnb.
“We concluded that we should remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians,” Airbnb said of its discriminatory decision.
The West Bank is split into three administrative divisions that are currently governed by the Palestinian Authority and Israel. The disputed territories in the West Bank were never part of a sovereign Palestinian state, so it’s unclear why Airbnb decided to ban only Israeli Jews from hosting in the territories. The land in question was occupied by Jordan from 1948 to 1967. Following the 1967 Arab-Israeli Six Day War, Jordan retreated from the disputed lands. The Arabs remaining in the West Bank continued to identify as Jordanian citizens until Jordan completely renounced its claims to the West Bank, while the up-and-coming Palestinian national movement claimed these people under the newly formed Palestinian identity.
The decision was perceived as overtly discriminatory because Airbnb continues to allow listings in other places with contested territorial issues, such as the Russia-occupied Crimea and Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus.