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Airbnb will allow Israeli settlement listings but won't profit off them

April 10, 2019 - 12:17 pm
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By Sara Ashley O'Brien, CNN Business

(CNN) — Airbnb has reversed its controversial stance to remove listings of rentals in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

The company said Tuesday that it will allow listings in the region, but says it will not profit off them. Instead, any profits from the region will be donated to non-profits focused on humanitarian aid in different parts of the world, Airbnb said in its announcement.

The updated policy comes as part of the settlement of lawsuits brought by hosts and potential hosts who objected to the company's move to ban listings in disputed areas, the company said.

"We understand the complexity of the issue that was addressed in our previous policy announcement," the company said. "Airbnb has always opposed the [Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions] 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."

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In November 2018, Airbnb said it would remove listings in Israeli settlements "at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians." At the time, it said the decision would affect about 200 Airbnb listings. The move was praised by Palestinian leaders and condemned by Israeli leaders.

The announcement comes against the backdrop of a defining election in Israel on Tuesday that's still shaping up. Benjamin Netanyahu, who first served as prime minister from 1996 to 1999 and again since 2009, is vying to be the country's longest serving prime minister, if reelected. In his final days of campaigning ahead of the election, Netanyahu discussed the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and pushed for annexation of the West Bank.

Notably, the company said the policy doesn't just apply to the West Bank: It will also be implemented in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two other disputed regions. The "breakaway provinces" are both officially part of Georgia but supported by Russia.

"Airbnb recognizes that there are many other disputed territories around the world," the company said. "If Airbnb determines homes — the core of our business — are central to ongoing tensions, we will adopt the same approach."

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CNN's Oren Liebermann contributed reporting.

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