Airbnb will leave West Bank homes listed to settle suits

This photo taken on January 17, 2019 from the Palestinian West Bank village of Al-Ram (foreground) shows the controversial Israeli separation barrier separating East Jerusalem (C-L) and the Palestinian West Bank town of Qalandia (background). (AFP)
Updated 10 April 2019
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Airbnb will leave West Bank homes listed to settle suits

  • The international community considers the settlements to be illegal and a barrier to peace between Israelis and Palestinians

SAN FRANCISCO: Home-sharing platform Airbnb on Tuesday announced it will back off a plan to remove Jewish settler homes in the occupied West Bank from its rental listings to end lawsuits brought by hosts.
The agreement settles all legal actions brought by hosts and potential hosts who went to court with concerns about listings, according to Airbnb.
Israeli lawyers filed a class action suit against Airbnb in November immediately after it said it planned to remove from its rental listings Jewish settler homes in the West Bank “that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.”
“Airbnb will not move forward with implementing the removal of listings in the West Bank from the platform,” the San Francisco-based company said Tuesday in a news release.
“We will continue to allow listings throughout all of the West Bank, but Airbnb will take no profits from this activity in the region.”
Profit generated from Airbnb listings in the West Bank will be donated to non-profit groups dedicated to humanitarian aid in various parts of the world, according to the startup.
Airbnb added that it will implement the same approach for listings in Moscow-backed separatist regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two other disputed areas where the company previously planned to take action.
The class action suit had sought 15,000 shekels ($4,183) in damages for the lead plaintiff and each other settler host should Airbnb delete them from its listings, a spokesman said earlier.
The decision would have affected around 200 homes in Israeli settlements that had been listed on the platform.
Around 400,000 Israelis live in settlements that dot the West Bank and range in size from tiny hamlets to large towns, in addition to 200,000 living in settlements in occupied east Jerusalem.
The international community considers the settlements to be illegal and a barrier to peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
A major campaigner against Airbnb’s earlier decision told AFP that “Airbnb has realized what we have long argued — that boycotts of Jews anywhere, even just in the West Bank, are discriminatory.
“This is a huge blow to efforts to delegitimize the Jewish presence in the West Bank,” said Eugene Kontorovich, Director of International Law at the Jerusalem-based Kohelet Policy Forum.
But Arvind Ganesan, of New York-based Human Rights Watch, called Airbnb’s retreat from the decision disappointing.
“Donating profits from unlawful settlement listings, as they’ve promised to do, does nothing to remedy the ‘human suffering’ they have acknowledged that their activities cause,” Ganesan said.
“By continuing to do business in settlements, they remain complicit in the abuses settlements trigger.”
Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had pledged to annex settlements in the occupied West Bank if he wins Tuesday’s elections.
Exit polls showed him neck-and-neck with his main challenger Benny Gantz.


Syria flare-up kills 35 fighters, including 26 pro-regime forces

Updated 49 min 26 sec ago
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Syria flare-up kills 35 fighters, including 26 pro-regime forces

  • Russian-backed regime forces try to retake villages seized by opposition forces and allied fighters
  • The clashes also left 26 pro-regime forces dead in the north of Hama province

 

BEIRUT: At least 10 civilians and 35 combatants, mostly pro-regime forces, were killed on Saturday in clashes and airstrikes that erupted at dawn in northwestern Syria, a war monitor said.

The flare-up came as Russian-backed regime forces tried to retake two villages seized by opposition forces and allied fighters earlier this month, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

“Since this morning, the Syrian regime and allied fighters have launched five failed attempts to regain control of Jibine and Tal Maleh in northwestern Hama province,” said Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman.

Syrian regime airstrikes killed nine opposition fighters, the war monitor said.

Ensuing clashes in the north of Hama province left 26 pro-regime forces dead, including eight who were killed in a mine explosion, the Observatory said.

In neighboring Idlib, regime airstrikes killed 10 civilians, including three children, the Observatory said.

The strikes hit the towns of Maaret Al-Numan and Al-Bara as well as the village of Al-Ftira, according to the war monitor.

The Idlib region of some 3 million people is supposed to be protected from a massive regime offensive by a buffer zone deal that Russia and Turkey signed in September.

But it was never fully implemented, as opposition refused to withdraw from a planned demilitarized zone.

In January, the Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate extended its administrative control over the region, which includes most of Idlib province as well as adjacent slivers of Latakia, Hama and Aleppo provinces.

The Syrian regime and Russia have upped their bombardment of the region since late April, killing nearly 400 civilians, according to the Observatory.

Turkey said on Friday that it did not accept Russia’s “excuse” that it had no ability to stop the Syrian regime’s continued bombardments in the last opposition bastion of Idlib.

“In Syria, who are the regime’s guarantors? Russia and Iran,” Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told state news agency Anadolu in a televised interview.

“Thus we do not accept the excuse that ‘We cannot make the regime listen to us’,” he said.

His comments came as Turkey disagreed with Russia earlier this week after Moscow claimed a new cease-fire had been secured in the province following weeks of regime bombardments — a claim that was denied by Ankara.

Syria’s war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011 with the repression of anti-regime protests.

Russia launched a military intervention in support of the regime in 2015, helping its forces reclaim large parts of the country from opposition fighters and militants.