Airbnb exec tours West Bank but sticks by decision to exclude settlements
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Airbnb exec tours West Bank but sticks by decision to exclude settlements

Chris Lehane meets with senior settlement leaders and tours the Barkan Industrial Park, but no change in plan to delist Jewish-owned properties in the West Bank

Airbnb's Head of Global Policy and Public Affairs Chris Lehane (2L) meets with Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan (2R) in the northern West Bank on December 18, 2018. (Samaria Regional Council)
Airbnb's Head of Global Policy and Public Affairs Chris Lehane (2L) meets with Samaria Regional Council chairman Yossi Dagan (2R) in the northern West Bank on December 18, 2018. (Samaria Regional Council)

An Airbnb executive visited the West Bank and met with Jewish settlement leaders amid criticism of its decision to remove Jewish-owned properties in the disputed territories from its short-term rental listings.

Chris Lehane, head of global policy and public affairs for the company, met Tuesday with senior settlement leaders and toured the Barkan Industrial Park.

The visit, said Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan, was “an important step against BDS,” the boycott movement targeting Israel.

Airbnb had come under fire in pro-Israel circles after deciding to delist homes in Jewish settlements last month because, it said, the settlements are “at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.”

Following a meeting between Airbnb executives and Tourism Minister Yariv Levin, the Israelis issued a statement claiming that Airbnb had backed down from its policy of not listing apartments in settlements, only to be contradicted by the company, which stated that while it opposed the BDS movement against Israel, it was not backing down.

“The reports issued earlier today are inaccurate,” the company said in a statement issued by its press secretary, Nick Papas.

While Airbnb’s initial November 19 statement announcing the removal of some 200 settlement listings was still up on its site as of Monday evening, so were Israeli offerings beyond the Green Line. An Airbnb spokesman had initially said it would be implementing its decision “in the coming days.”

The vacation rental site’s decision last month infuriated members of Israel’s right-wing government along with settler leaders throughout the West Bank and Jewish organizations in the United States. Levin and Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan lambasted the move as “racist” and “anti-Semitic,” arguing that it applied a different standard to the Jewish state than to other disputed territories around the world.

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