columnBoycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS)

Dear AirBnB,

Are you, AirBnB, de-listing all rentals in these disputed territories? Or only Jewish-owned/Israeli properties? Since you declare not to have taken a stance on the conflict, how can you legitimize one party’s claim by allowing Arab listings while prohibiting the other party?

Airbnb logo. Credit: Screenshot.
Airbnb logo. Credit: Screenshot.
Aryeh Green
Aryeh Green is the author of the recently-published My Israel Trail: Finding Peace in the Promised Land about his hike on “Shvil Yisrael”, the 600-mile Israel National Trail from Dan to Eilat. He serves as chief strategy officer at EnergiyaGlobal, a renewable energy platform for Africa based in Jerusalem, and as director emeritus of MediaCentral in Jerusalem, a project of HonestReporting providing services for the foreign press in the region. Aryeh is a former senior advisor to Natan Sharansky in Israel's prime minister's office, and is a frequent and captivating speaker on Israel, media issues, and human rights. When not promoting Israel and renewable energy, Aryeh grows grapes and makes wine.

Dear AirBnB,

Regarding your Nov. 19 announcement de-listing Jewish/Israeli properties, I won’t argue the merits of arguments regarding the legality of Israel’s presence in the disputed territories of Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank” of the Jordan River). Reasonable people, based on history and Western notions of international law, morality and politics, may present compelling arguments on all sides.

But I challenge you on two basic points:

1. Consistency. Are you de-listing rentals in northern Cyprus, held in blatant violation of international law by Turkey, a country with no historic or legal ties to the island, following its belligerent act of aggression (according to the U.N. definition)? Tibet? Various regions occupied by Russia? Western Sahara? And the other many regions (Alsace Lorraine anyone?) on the globe in dispute?

Furthermore, are you de-listing all rentals in these disputed territories? Or only Jewish-owned/Israeli properties? Since you declare not to have taken a stance on the conflict, how can you legitimize one party’s claim by allowing Arab listings while prohibiting the other party? By definition, your decision sides with those who claim that these are Arab or Palestinian lands, with no connection to Jews, Jewish history or the Jews as a nation and people. (That this contention is ahistoric cannot be denied, though reasonable people can of course argue for various approaches to resolving the Arab-Israeli conflict, including advocating the creation of a Palestinian state and the withdrawal by Israel from disputed territories, while others may oppose this approach.)

2. Justification and language. Your press release states that “settlements” are “at the core of the dispute.” This is demonstrably false. There were no “settlements” (Jewish communities in the territories) prior to the early 1970s. Yet, there were 100 years of violence and hostility to Jews returning to their ancestral homeland since the late 1800s. The removal of all “settlements” (and military presence, and even graves of Jews in Gaza in 2005 led not to peace but intensified attacks by Palestinian Arabs on Israel. And conceptually, it’s clear that with real peace, Arabs and Jews can live side by side as they do in Israel, where 20 percent of Israel’s citizens or 1.5 million people are Arabs (mostly Muslim); and Arabs and Jews live in villages next to each other and in city neighborhoods next to each other or even in some cases side by side.

Settlements are indeed not the core problem. The primary obstacle to peace is, as it has been for over 100 years, the violent opposition by the Arab and Muslim (and Palestinian) leadership to ANY connection or sovereign presence of Jews in their ancestral homeland. Recognizing this, as above, does not mean one must support Israel’s policies or even continued presence in Judea & Samaria (though it is the heartland of the Jewish people and has been for 3,500 years. Jews are, after all, from Judea). But recognizing this does point to the first step in any reconciliation: the acceptance by Arabs and Muslims of the legitimacy of Israel’s founding, in any borders.

In sum, I humbly suggest that you either: apply that policy consistently by de-listing all properties, regardless of ownership, within the disputed territories, as well as in other disputed regions; or acknowledge that you made a mistake, having accepted the simplistic and propagandistic (and politically correct) approach of the supposed experts you consulted (or perhaps just listened to the loudest voices), and revert to your former non-political and nondiscriminatory policy.

Yours sincerely,
Aryeh Green

Aryeh Green is author of the recently published “My Israel Trail: Finding Peace in the Promised Land” about his hike on “Shvil Yisrael,” the 600-mile Israel National Trail from Dan to Eilat. He serves as chief strategy officer at EnergiyaGlobal, a renewable-energy platform for Africa based in Jerusalem, and as director emeritus of MediaCentral in Jerusalem.

The opinions and facts presented in this article are those of the author, and neither JNS nor its partners assume any responsibility for them.
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