Israeli Minister Calls on U.S. Governors to Act Against Airbnb Over Settlement Ban

Illionois governor asks state's investment board to defund Airbnb after Gilad Erdan calls the firm's move 'the modern form of anti-Semitic practice'

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan sits with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Olivier Fitoussi

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan approached five U.S. governors and requested that they act against Airbnb's decision to delist properties in Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Erdan called Airbnb's decision "the modern form of anti-Semitic practice," and asked that the governors "consider speaking out against the company's decision, and taking any other relevant steps, including in relation to commercial dealings."

Several days after the letter was sent, Republican Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner, one of the recipients, recommended Tuesday to the Illinois Investment Policy to stop investing in the home-renting company, according to Kan, Israel's public broadcaster.

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan's letter to Illinois governor Bruce Rauner, November 20, 2018.

>> Opinion: Liberal Zionists faced a critical test with Airbnb. We flunked it ■ Analysis: Airbnb's ban on Israeli settlements is big win for BDS, not necessarily for anti-Semites

Airbnb announced on November 19 that it had decided to remove its listings in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, enclaves that most world powers consider illegal for taking up land where Palestinians seek statehood.

The next day, Erdan sent the letters to governors with whom he had previously met: New York governor Andrew Cuomo, California governor Jerry Brown, outgoing Illinois governor Bruce Rauner, Missouri governor Mike Parson and newly elected Florida governor Ron DeSantis.

"I would like to draw your attention to Airbnb's announcement that it will remove from its site listings of Israel-owned business in Judea and Samaria, thus adopting the anti-Semitic practices and narrative of the boycott movement," Erdan wrote.

"Airbnb's announced policy is especially disturbing when one understands that it is a policy directed only toward Israel. Such a police has not been applied by the company to any other country... This constitutes (one hopes unintentionally) the modern form of anti-Semitic practice which applies a double standard to Israel," the minister continued.

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner speaks to supporters after losing his re-election bid to Democratic gubernatorial candidate J.B. Pritzker in Chicago on Tuesday, November 6, 2018.
AP Photo/Matt Marton

Rauner, who lost the midterms elections and has only several more weeks on the job, called the company's decision "troubling" and vowed to work against it through his state's investment board, slated to meet next month.

In 2015, Illinois passed a law that explicitly bars the state's pension funds from dealing with companies that support the BDS movement.

More than 20 states are considering bills or have passed laws targeting companies that comply with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement against Israel. Most of these penalize only companies that boycott Israel, although nine states, like Illinois, have passed or are considering passing laws that extend the penalties to entities that boycott Israeli businesses operating in the West Bank.

The Israeli government has been up in arms over Airbnb’s announcement, and ministers have been seeking retribution in various ways. After the announcement, Erdan, the point-man in the government to combat pro-Palestinian boycotts, said he would consult with the U.S. government on the matter.

“We will approach the U.S. government because 25 U.S. states have sanctions against American companies that boycott Israel,” Erdan said on Israeli Army Radio.

He also called for a boycott of Airbnb and promoted one of its rivals.

“I call today on all those who support Israel and oppose discriminatory boycotts: they should cease using Airbnb and turn to other services,” Erdan told a diplomatic conference hosted by the Jerusalem Post newspaper. “By the way, Booking.com is a great service,” Erdan added.

There are 200 Airbnb listings in West Bank settlements. Airbnb has more than 22,000 hosts in Israel.

Airbnb does not intend to remove Jewish homes in East Jerusalem, territory Israel annexed in a move not recognized abroad and which the Palestinians want for a future capital, or the Golan Heights, which Israel captured from Syria in the 1967 Middle East war.