More than 10,000 people have pledged to deactivate their Airbnb accounts for a global campaign protesting the company’s decision to re-introduce property listings in Israeli West Bank settlements, considered illegal under international law.
The #DeactivateAirbnb action is timed to coincide with Nakba Day on Wednesday or what is known as “the catastrophe,” which led to the exodus of several hundred thousand Palestinians after the declaration of the State of Israel on 15 May 1948.
Airbnb announced in November last year it would remove from its website around 200 listings in the settlements of the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, an area claimed by Palestinians as territory for a future state, and would donate all profits from properties in the West Bank to humanitarian aid organisations.
The company however reversed the decision five months later.
Jewish Voice for Peace communications director Granate Kim told The Independent: “This day-long deactivation is just a first step in telling Airbnb you can’t do the right thing and then backpedal – and not expect blowback.
“They’re not taking any money from rental fees, but honestly, that doesn’t matter. It’s more about giving in to baseless lawsuits, fear and feeding a narrative that says international law is fine to breach when it comes to Israel and that stolen land is fine to rent if it belongs to Palestinians.”
Figures disclosed to The Independent reveal over 2,000 members of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and 8,000 from the Jewish Voice for Peace – mooted the largest pro-Palestine rights organisation in the US – will deactivate their Airbnb accounts on Wednesday to protest the company’s decision.
The groups form part of a global coalition of 20 international organisations involved in the action and are from countries including Germany, Switzerland, Canada, Tunisia and Jordan.
Those supporting the campaign also include the BDS Movement, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, SumofUs, United Methodists for Kairos Response, American Muslims for Palestine, Just Peace Advocates, the Palestine Institute for Public Democracy and CODEPINK.
On its website last month, the company stated: “Airbnb has always opposed the BDS movement. Airbnb has never boycotted Israel, Israeli businesses, or the more than 20,000 Israeli hosts who are active on the Airbnb platform.
“We have always sought to bring people together and will continue to work with our community to achieve this goal.”
Airbnb’s decision was welcomed by various Israel advocacy organisations, including by Tel Aviv-based group director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, who said: “The policy Airbnb announced last November was abject discrimination against Jewish users of the website.
“We commend Airbnb for recognising that it had landed on the wrong side of this issue and changing the policy.”
But protest groups such as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) have said the company has simply buckled under pressure “following months of condemnation from various pro-Israel organisations.”
PSC director Ben Jamal said: “Today, thousands of campaigners across the world have sent a clear message to Airbnb that their disregard for human rights and international law will not be tolerated. They simply cannot justify legitimising illegal settlements built on stolen Palestinian land.
“Airbnb must realise this campaign will only continue to grow and escalate if they refuse to change their irresponsible decision, which places them firmly on the wrong side of history.”
The move was also condemned in a letter to Jeremy Hunt last Wednesday by several MPs including Holly Lynch, Lilian Greenwood, Graham Jones, Chris Elmore and Julie Elliott.
Airbnb has been contacted for a response.