Airbnb has previously been criticized for allowing listings of homes to rent in Israeli settlements.
Sputnik discussed this with Alan Baker, a former legal adviser to Israel's foreign ministry and former ambassador to Canada. He now heads the international law program at the Jerusalem Centre for Public Affairs.
Sputnik: What do you think was behind this decision by Airbnb? Why did they do this at this particular time?
Alan Baker: There has been a concerted intent by the Palestinian leadership, leaving a letter from January 2016 by Saeb Erekat, director general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and Palestinian chief negotiator, asking the CEO of Airbnb to stop this boycott.
Sputnik: Was there pressure from other sources as well?
Alan Baker: No. In my opinion, it all stems from what's called the BDS, the boycott campaign by the Palestinian leadership to try and harm Israel economically and culturally. Of course, there're additional bodies and organizations that would immediately go along with this, but the source of it is Saeb Erekat.
Alan Baker: They might benefit in getting some positive viewpoints from anti-Israel elements. They haven't benefited and they won't benefit from it, first of all, because they're removing a huge amount of customers within Israel, within West Bank areas, Israel's towns and villages in, addition to people all over the world who will view this as a very hostile act taken by Airbnb aligning itself in a very partisan way with organizations that are intent on undermining Israel.
Sputnik: Although Airbnb has removed these Israeli West Bank settlements, there are still some disputed areas where the company operates; why do you think that's the case?
Alan Baker: It's singling out. The company operates in Moroccan Western Sahara, despite the fact that there's a huge territory of dispute there. The company operates in Turkish North Cyprus, despite the fact that nobody else recognizes Northern Cyprus. But this is the only place where they decided to impose a boycott. This implies something very ominous on the part of the executives of Airbnb.
Sputnik: Do you think that this is going to have a big impact on the locals?
Alan Baker: It will have an impact because in the area of Israel's West Bank there're Jews, Christians and Muslims; they all work together. There are industrial zones where everybody is working together for the benefit of everybody. By instituting this act of boycott, in actual fact, Airbnb are harming Muslims and Christians, as well as Jews.
Alan Baker: I don't think that it has anything to do with that. I think the fact that they are only singling out the West Bank territories held by Israel and they aren't doing the same thing with all the other areas that are in dispute is indicative of the fact that it's not an issue of public or financial interest, it's a political viewpoint that they decided to align themselves with in violation of all their own principles with respect to renting out homes throughout the world.
Sputnik: Why do you think at this point in time this political stance was taken?
Alan Baker: Because of pressure by the Palestinian leadership and, obviously, supporters.
Sputnik: But what's the Palestinian interest in Airbnb or what's Airbnb's interest in Palestine, if it's not public support?
Alan Baker: I think that the Palestinians have absolutely no interest in Airbnb, apart from the fact that they want to cause damage to the fact that Airbnb is working with Israel. Airbnb, in going along with this, they are not contributing to peace in the Middle East. On the contrary, they're giving support to the organizations that are intent on undermining Israel and harming Israel, including, by the way, organizations that have been involved in acts of terror against Israel. Political pressure, supported by all sorts of left-wing elements of society that are hostile to Israel; it's pressure by those elements that are hostile to Israel, led by the Palestinian leadership.
Sputnik: How can companies not directly linked to the conflict actually impact the relations that exist between Israel and Palestine?
Vires and opinions expressed in the article are those of Alan Baker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.