Airbnb Inc. said it will stop renting out homes in Jewish settlements of the West Bank, a move that drew sharp rebukes from Israeli officials on Monday.
The San Francisco-based company said it would remove about 200 home and room rentals in the disputed region. Airbnb said that although U.S. law allows for it to continue operating there, it made the controversial decision after consulting with outside policy experts.
“Many in the global community have stated that companies should not do business here because they believe companies should not profit on lands where people have been displaced.” Airbnb wrote in a blog post. “We know that people will disagree with the decision and appreciate their perspective.”
Sure enough, Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan said homeowners affected by Airbnb’s ban should consider suing the company. Erdan said he plans to discuss Airbnb’s decision with “senior American officials” to see if the move violates U.S. anti-Israel boycott laws. Tourism Minister Yariv Levin called the move a “surrender to a boycott” and said he would seek to have an additional tax imposed on Airbnb’s activities in Israel.
Nick Papas, a spokesman for Airbnb, declined to comment on the officials’ statements. Papas said the Israeli settlement listings would be removed from Airbnb’s website in the coming days.
For years, critics have accused Airbnb of benefiting from rentals in Jewish outposts at the center of conflict in the region. Palestinian leaders have long sought statehood and fought for the removal of Israeli settlements in the West Bank.