Airbnb is a privately held global company headquartered in the U.S. that operates a hospitality service which is accessible. Customers can use the service to arrange or offer lodging, primarily homestays. Airbnb annual revenue was $2.6 billion in 2017.
Since Airbnb was founded ten years ago, it has offered accommodations in the occupied Palestinian territories Jerusalem, Golan Heights and West Bank. Airbnb had said in November 2018 it would remove the listings of some 200 settlement homes. That decision was deplored by Israel and challenged in some U.S. jurisdictions.
Due to international humanitarian law, this business activity in occupied terroritoriy is illegal. In the early years of the occupation, the main ploy that Israel used to take over land for building settlements was to seize the land “for military purposes”. Military seizure orders were issued for some 3,100 hectares of land, most of which were earmarked for building settlements. Several Palestinians petitioned Israel’s High Court of Justice (HCJ), arguing that the seizure violated international law, since it served a civilian purpose of building a settlement rather than true military needs.
The establishment of the settlements contravenes international humanitarian law, which states that an occupying power may not relocate its own citizens to the occupied territory or make permanent changes to that territory, unless these are needed for imperative military needs, in the narrow sense of the term, or undertaken for the benefit of the local population.
The existence of settlements also leads to the violation of many human rights of Palestinians, including the rights to property, equality, an adequate standard of living and freedom of movement. In addition, the radical changes that Israel has made to the map of the West Bank preclude any real possibility of establishing an independent, viable Palestinian state in fulfilment of the right to self-determination. Although the West Bank is not part of Israel’s sovereign territory, Israeli has applied most of its domestic laws to the settlements and their residents.
Israel has refrained from formally annexing the West Bank (except in East Jerusalem). In practice, however, it treats the settlements established throughout Area C as extensions of its sovereign territory and has virtually eliminated the distinction for Israeli citizens – while concentrating the Palestinian population in 165 disconnected “islands” (Areas A and B).
As long as Airbnb allows illegitimate owners of residential property in the occupied Palestinian territories to profit from unlawful acts as illegal expropriation of land or theft of soil to the detriment of the legitimate owners who are Palestinian native people, one should carefully consider whether Airbnb is a platform that suits you.