Opinion |

Hurray for Airbnb

Airbnb explained that it doesn’t need to profit from land from which people have been uprooted. Is there a more just statement than this?

Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy
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File photo: Moshe Gordon sits outside his guest house advertised on the Airbnb international home-sharing site, in the Nofei Prat settlement in the West Bank, Jan. 17, 2016.
File photo: Moshe Gordon sits outside his guest house advertised on the Airbnb international home-sharing site, in the Nofei Prat settlement in the West Bank, Jan. 17, 2016. Credit: Tsafrir Abayov,AP
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

One single tourism company did more this week to end the occupation than anything the Zionist left has ever done. Airbnb is threatening to strike a blow at the illegal livelihood of 200 settler families. Another 200 companies like Airbnb and the settlement project will begin to feel it in the pocketbook, and then its participants will ask, together with other Israelis, whether it’s worth it. There is no better news than this. Thanks and blessings to this international accommodations network, which after inventing a successful tourism enterprise, was courageous enough to take part in a just political initiative. Airbnb explained that it doesn’t need to profit from land from which people have been uprooted. Is there a more just statement than this?

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But that’s not all it did. It also revealed to the world, unintentionally, the best of the lies, the extortion, the demagoguery and the double standards of the settlers and their supporters in the government. When they yell “Holocaust,” because of bed and breakfasts, clearly they’ve run out of arguments. “Anti-Semitism,” “selection,” “persecution” – this time for a fistful of dollars going to the pockets of a handful of vacation profiteers on stolen land, trading in stolen goods. This is what the dispossession project is: It begins with a divine promise and ends with bed and breakfast. Jacuzzi on occupied land, vacation across from a refugee camp, relax with a view of roadblocks and have a glass of wine at an illegal outpost as the sun sets against the pastoral backdrop of nighttime Israeli army abductions – could there be a more galling project?

The weirdest Airbnbs in West Bank settlementsCredit: Haaretz

Listen to the outcry: “Two years ago my wife Kalila and I established our bed and breakfast, “Ruth’s House,” in Sde Boaz, right across from Bethlehem,” Kalila Kelman’s husband told Israel Hayom in what could be read as a particularly amusing parody. “This is a bed and breakfast we built with our own hands and is intended just for couples, without children. Over the past two years people have come to us from all over the world, to forget the daily craziness and get connected to themselves. The bed and breakfast is a place of dialogue, conversation between people and connection between human beings, of for and not against, and this is what the boycott is trying to destroy,” he said.

We choke back tears, our hearts break. Forget the daily craziness opposite imprisoned Bethlehem. Get up at dawn and head for roadblock 300, to see the day laborers crammed in like cattle – connections between people.

The Kelmans remind the boycotters, those ingrates, that they have pacemakers made in Israel; that there are Palestinians who do their shopping at the main intersection of the Etzion Bloc in the West Bank, that boycotts for political reasons are not allowed. All the lying propaganda, which exhorts a boycott of Iran and Hamas, but not the settlements.

In a spectacular show of obtuseness, the heads of the Yesha Council of settlements called for a boycott of Airbnb. The Kelmans, who live in the apartheid entity opposite the separation barrier, say that the boycott is racism. Locking up the Aida refugee camp across from them – that’s humaneness. Boycotting those who are the reason why the Aida refugee camp is a cage – that’s racism. The general in the war against the boycott, Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, revealed that this is a “political decision,” and the head of the Beit El local council reminded us that “once again, selection is being perpetrated against Jews.” A settlement that causes terrible suffering to their neighbors in Jalazone, one of the most destitute refugee camps in the West Bank, dares to talk about selection. There’s no limit, no boundary; when it comes to the settlements there’s never any boundary.

>> Read more: Boycott Airbnb, Unless You're Good With anti-Semitism | Opinion ■ Netanyahu Is Partying Like It’s 1998 | Analysis

Airbnb’s decision is a source of schadenfreude vis a vis the settlers. Any non-violent strike against them holds hope, because this is apparently the only way to end the occupation. But the feeling is short-lived, because the propaganda machines are sure to thwart the decision by various means, including the threat of boycott. Let’s hope that Airbnb doesn’t backtrack. It might show the way for other companies. Thanks to Airbnb, we’ve entered a new battleground: private vacation sites, completely lacking in legitimacy, as the new banner of the settlement project. Thank you, Airbnb, not only for the courage for which you’ll yet pay the price – but also for moving the conflict from our right to the land to our right to a bed and breakfast.

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