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the pulpitBoycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS)

The sound of the death knell for BDS?

Airbnb offers, “We are most certainly not the experts when it comes to the historical disputes in this region.” Would you trust a company that admits it is, well, a bit stupid?

Airbnb logo. Credit: Screenshot.
Airbnb logo. Credit: Screenshot.
Yisrael Medad

The JTA news update was headed “Airbnb’s Decision on Israeli Settlements Could Be a Game Changer.”

But unlike the story itself, which highlighted the angle that Israel’s resettlement enterprise of the historic portions of the Jewish national home as recognized in international law in 1922 is unlawful, Airbnb’s decision—prompted by BDS activists and the Human Rights Watch group—could be the accelerated tolling of a death knell for the anti-Israel campaign of ostracization that seeks to turn Israel into a pariah state.

It reminded me of a tale I once read (and regrettably, I cannot recall the origin) of a person who was sentenced to death by beheading. Supremely confident that he could cheat death, he mounted the stairs confidently, even haughtily. The sword was wielded, and the blow was struck. The condemned man looked at his executioner and said, “See, I am still alive.” The executioner stared back and said, “Go on, shake your head.”

Following through on that image of a decapitation, allow me to be a kaishakunin and assist that death knell, although I don’t think I would be doing that to spare the agony of a prolonged anguish until death.

As quoted, Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director for Human Rights Watch, seeking to defend Airbnb from the counter-charge that the decision was discriminatory of Jews, pointed an accusing finger and said that Judea and Samaria is “the only place in the world where a person who lives somewhere cannot enter based on their ethnicity or national origin.”

Actually, as the suit of Ma’anit Rabinovich, who offers guestroom rentals in the Jewish settlement of Kida, makes clear, Airbnb’s move

“represents especially grave, offensive and outrageous discrimination. … Airbnb has no policy whatsoever pertaining to conflict zones in the world. It has a policy pertaining to settlements in Israel, and only to them.”

But to Shakir’s point, entrance to a Jewish residency location in Judea and Samaria is based only on security considerations. Arabs, by the thousands, enter Jewish communities and industrial parks daily, and if the Palestinian Authority would stop threatening their lives and livelihoods, there would be more. If there would be no terror, there would be an open entrance policy. And Shakir knows well that a Jew may be permitted into an Arab village in that same area, but the chances of him getting our unharmed are low.

What the BDS groups of Kerem Navot, Jewish Voice for Peace and others who pushed this specific action will soon realize is that the boomerang effect has begun. Despite the declaration of Arvind Ganesan, business and human-rights director at Human Rights Watch, that “Airbnb has taken a stand against discrimination, displacement and land theft,” the company has high-profiled the hypocrisy and absurdity of the BDS campaign, allowing Israel and pro-Israel activists to finally gain traction to overturn its seemingly inexorable progress.

First of all, the issue of “illegality” will be relegated, and eventually, the status of Jews living in Judea and Samaria will become accepted. I believe that the more the BDS’ers harp on that aspect, it will permit a cogent counter-argument that the communities are legal, and moreover, to ban Jews from any area would itself be a policy of apartheid.

Second, it allows the focusing of attention on the Arabs own ethnic-cleansing operations. For example, between 1920-1947, several thousands of Jews were forced out of their homes by Arab pogromists in Judea and Samaria. During the 1947-49 war the Arabs initiated, some 60,000 Jews became refugees. And if the basis of the Airbnb decision was that “companies should not profit on lands where people have been displaced,” besides Arabs doing that here in Israel, they did that in Arab countries, and Germans and Poles did that during World War II. Will those homes stolen from Jews be delisted? Will Airbnb be logical through and through?

Thirdly, it highlights the blatant anti-Jewish aspect of BDS. As pointed out, there are other “disputed areas” in the world where Airbnb has not delisted owners. Why not? Because the owners are not Jewish? That would lend itself to a charge of racism.

In the fourth instance, the shallowness of those engaging in BDS is revealed. Here is Airbnb admitting ignorance and expertise on a question that could lose them a lot of money:

“We are most certainly not the experts when it comes to the historical disputes in this region. Our team has wrestled with this issue.”

Would you trust a company that admits it is, well, a bit stupid? From whom did they take advice? Israeli political figures seem to indicate they weren’t contacted. This will extend to college campuses as well.

Fifth, based on previous instances, Israel’s government will probably increase its interest and funding in developing tourism in Judea and Samaria.

Sixth, it is galvanizing non-Jewish supporters, especially those who worked to get states in the United States to pass legislation in this regard. The company may face a boycott itself.

If Israel and its supporters act in coordination—something not always the case—indeed, the peals of that bell in the background may become louder and the end of BDS more in reach.

Yisrael Medad is an American-born journalist and columnist.

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