Home-sharing unicorn startup for renting out your home to travelers, Airbnb, has a presence in 81,000 cities around the globe. Rivaled only by Uber in being the most valuable startup, Forbes has reported that the company is valued at around $38 million.
At the end of 2018, after receiving pressure from Palestinian officials and anti-settlement advocates, Airbnb decided to remove nearly 200 listings, located in Israel’s West Bank, from the application. Many consider these settlements, captured in the war of 1967, to be a violation of international law, and have deemed the territories “occupied,” and unethical. Airbnb stated that they wrestled with this issue and struggled to find the right approach, but spent “considerable time” consulting experts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that led them to this decision, leaving many Israeli and U.S. officials outraged.
Gilad Erdan, Israel’s minister of strategic affairs, suggested that all West Bank homeowners who list their properties on Airbnb file lawsuits against the company under Israel’s anti-boycott law.
He added that he would further discuss the issue with American officials to see whether the decision violated an anti-boycott legislation that exists in 25 states. Eugene Kontorovich, director of international law at the Kohelet Policy Forum, suggested that Airbnb was singling Israel out, and their motive to remove these listings were was simply not due to the “occupation,” but rather was a discriminatory and anti-semitic act. He added that Airbnb has listings in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara, Turkish-occupied Cyprus and other controversial territories. Vice President Mike Pence criticized the company’s decision, and said their actions had “no place” in the market.
In 2014, Airbnb removed approximately 4,000 listings in Crimea. Although many have argued that today’s issue is similar, it clearly is not. Their previous decision followed U.S. and international sanctions after Russia annexed the region from Ukraine; today, however, there are no U.S. sanctions against Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
It is in light of these events that OlehStay, an Airbnb alternative for Israel, was launched.
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