After settlements, Airbnb to delist rentals in Georgian breakaway regions
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After settlements, Airbnb to delist rentals in Georgian breakaway regions

Hospitality service to remove from its website all properties in Abkhazia, South Ossetia following delisting of West Bank settlements

Illustrative: An Abkhazian man walks past war-damaged apartment buildings in Sukhumi, the capital of the Georgian breakaway region of Abkhazia, on August 25, 2011. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)
Illustrative: An Abkhazian man walks past war-damaged apartment buildings in Sukhumi, the capital of the Georgian breakaway region of Abkhazia, on August 25, 2011. (AP Photo/Mikhail Metzel)

JTA — 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 has 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.” At the time, it was criticized for only including the West Bank and no other disputed or occupied territories.

“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.”

In this photo from January 17, 2016, Moshe Gordon sits outside his guest house advertised on the Airbnb international home-sharing site in Nofei Prat settlement in the West Bank. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov, File)

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 available to rent 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 who has criticized Airbnb over the West Bank policy, called the move a “fig leaf” and said it did not address claims of discrimination.

“Having been criticized for only applying its supposed global policy to Israel, the company has now added some tiny obscure Georgian territories, occupied by Russia. However Airbnb’s has delisted all properties in these regions, whereas with regard to the West Bank only Jewish properties were delisted,” he said in a statement.

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