The palestinian Awni Shaaeb, age 70, is owner of a plot of land in the settlement of Ofra, 22 miles north of Jerusalem, in the west bank, under israeli occupation since 1967. A decade ago, jewish settlers built on the site of a building where now Airbnb offers in the Internet tourist accommodations. Shaaeb, who lives in the nearby village of Ein Yabrud, you cannot reserve the rooms built over the land where his family grew wheat, barley and chickpeas. Single travelers israelis and foreigners are permitted to spend the night there. “The services offered (in the west bank) discriminate against guests on the basis of their origin or ethnic or national”, has warned the american NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a report published this Tuesday Bed and breakfast in stolen land (Bed-and-breakfast in the field usurped). The platform Airbnb has anticipated that it is going to remove their listings on the web for the 200 accommodations, registered in the west bank to prevent “human suffering” and not to interfere in “the disputes existing in the region.”
The decision of the tourism company, with headquarters in San Francisco included in a black list the accommodations located in the settlements has fallen like a sledgehammer in Israel. The Government of prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has announced that it will appeal the measure before the justice of the united STATES. At least 25 States have passed laws against the boycott of the jewish State, including “the territories under israeli control”. In addition to the west bank, where they have settled in the last half-century, more than 400,000 settlers, Israel occupies East Jerusalem, home to 200,000, and the Golan heights (close to 20,000) in Syria.
The minister of Strategic Affairs, Gilad Erdan, has proclaimed that “there is no distinction between one part or another of the State of Israel”, in relation to legislation passed in the U.S. contrary to the movement of Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), considered by Israel as a threat deslegitimadora of its existence led by “anti-semitic organisations”. “Airbnb will have to explain why it has adopted this measure discriminatory and racist here and not in other conflict areas in the rest of the world”, added the minister.
Meanwhile, the eastern part of Jerusalem, where the palestinians aspire to place the capital of their future State, and the plateau of syria were annexed without international recognition at the beginning of the decade of the eighties, the west bank remains under military occupation, with a civil administration in the hands of the Army, which, according to HRW, support the property of the family of Awni Shaaeb on land in Ofra. The mayor of the settlement, Oded Revivi, has openly criticised that Airbnb will violate its declared mission of “bringing people together in as many places as possible around the world.”
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The platform of rent of accommodation it offers its arguments on its website: “we Know that is a controversial issue in the global community, where many have spoken out against companies doing business here (in occupied territories) since they consider that they should not take advantage of the lands of people who have been displaced”. This is why Airbnb, which until now had been covered in the israeli legislation to operate in the colonies, concludes that it must withdraw its offer of “settlements in the occupied territory of the west bank, which are at the core of the dispute with the palestinians.”
From the Organization for the Liberation of Palestine, its general secretary, Saeb Erekat, has described as an “initial step” positive, the exclusion of these holiday rental. The responsible palestinians warned the american company of accommodations online that they were going to denounce their activities in the west bank before the international criminal justice. The veteran negotiator diplomat has asked the Human Rights Council of the UN made public the base data and the list of companies that “capitalize on economic of the colonial occupation”, that includes two hundred companies, mostly american and european.
The Tourism minister of israel, Yariv Levin, has announced that it will propose measures of retaliation against the decision “hypocritical” of Airbnb in the west bank. Raises the restriction of its business activities, or an increase of the taxation on accommodation offered by private individuals. Levin also suggested an incentive plan to promote tourism in the colonies. Israel, where the tourism sector moves to 4,200 million euros annually, is expected to be completed in 2018 with a historic record of more than four million visitors.
Human Rights Watch has welcomed the decision taken by the international platform and has called other tour companies, such as central reservations, Booking, offers on its web page 26 accommodation units in the west bank, to follow in the footsteps of Airbnb. The international community considers israeli settlements lack legitimacy. The resolution of the Security Council, 2334, passed in December of 2016, states that the jewish colonies in the occupied palestinian territory constitute a flagrant violation of international law. The measure was voted on by all members of the Council, except the US which abstained for not to exercise its traditional right of veto in favour of the jewish State at the end of the presidency of Barack Obama. Israel retorts that these are not occupied territories, but disputed territories on which the jewish people has historical rights.
The lands of Awni Shaaeb were confiscated in 1975 by israeli settlers, according to HRW. Aerial photographs taken by the Israeli NGO Kerem Navot, which oversees settlements in palestinian territory, shows that between 2006 and 2007 was built on the plot of his family in Ofra. “It is illegal for someone to usurp your land”, concludes the veteran palestinian quoted in the report, “but for anyone to build on your land, the rent and profits of it, that is the injustice itself.”