After Boycotting West Bank Settlements, Airbnb to Delist Contested Areas in Georgia

Two contested autonomous areas in the republic of Georgia, South Ossetia and Abhkazia, have been added to Airbnb's list of places where homes won't be offered

Russian military vehicles are seen on their way to South Ossetia close to North Ossetia-South Ossetia border, August 9, 2008.
REUTERS

Airbnb, which has taken heat for removing listings in West Bank Jewish settlements, has updated the areas it would delist, adding two contested autonomous areas in the republic of Georgia.

South Ossetia and Abhkazia have been added to the places where Airbnb will not offer rooms and homes for rent.

In November, Airbnb announced that it would remove listings in the settlements, citing the “dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.” Jewish settlements are considered illegal by international law for taking up land where Palestinians seek statehood by most world powers.

The Israeli government was up in arms over Airbnb’s announcement, and ministers sought retribution in various ways, including through apeals to U.S. governors. 

“As a global platform operating in 191 countries and regions and more than 81,000 cities, we must consider the impact we have and act responsibly,” the company said late last week in an updated statement titled “Framework for Evaluating Listings in Disputed Areas.”

“Accordingly, we have developed a framework for evaluating how we should treat listings in disputed territories, including territories some consider occupied where homes — the core of our business — are central to ongoing tensions.”

The company said it is continuing to review other areas of the world that are the subject of disputes.

A visit to the Airbnb website shows that rentals in Jewish settlements remain posted and are rentable for the next several months in most cases.

According to the statement, the company is “working with experts to develop and validate the means to implement our policy,” including to “appropriately identify the precise boundaries of the areas subject to our policy.”

But at least one critic pointed out that the ban on listings in the West Bank is discriminatory, despite the addition of other banned areas.

Eugene Kontorovich, a law professor at George Mason University and the director of international law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum, said in a series of tweets that Airbnb said it will delist the entire area in South Ossetia and Abhkazia Airbnb, and in the West Bank it singles out Jewish settlements while continuing to allow rentals in Palestinian cities and villages.