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HRW urges Booking.com to follow Airbnb, pull Israeli settlement listings

HRW urges Booking.com to follow Airbnb, pull Israeli settlement listings”

The decision comes two years after +972 and Local Call revealed that the San Francisco-based vacation rentals company included apartments, cottages, and caravans located on West Bank hilltops, while making no mention of the fact that they are in settlements on occupied land.

Kontorovich said Airbnb had been "bullied" by the UN Human Rights Council which, in 2016, mandated the compilation of a blacklist aimed at companies doing business in the West Bank, Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

Airbnb says it will remove from its listings all homes in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The new report by the rights group, released after the Airbnb decision, is entitled "West Bank: Bed and Breakfast on Stolen Land".

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat has welcomed Airbnb's decision as "an initial positive step". It was not clear what this would mean.

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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. Those without approval are referred to as outposts and tend to be populated by hard-line religious nationalists who see the entire West Bank as part of Israel. The United Nations Security Council voted 14-0 in December 2016, with the US abstaining, to reaffirm previous statements that settlements in these territories are "a flagrant violation under global law", a major obstacle to a two-state solution with the Palestinian Authority, and have "no legal validity".

In response to Airbnb's announcement, Arvind Ganesan, Business and Human rights Director at HRW, said: "Airbnb's decision to end its listings in Israeli settlements is an important recognition that such listings can't square with its human rights responsibilities".

Airbnb said Monday it will remove such listings, just ahead of the release of a Human Rights Watch report criticising the inclusion of settlements.

The Anti-Defamation League has condemned the BDS movement as "the most prominent effort to undermine Israel's existence" and "rampant with misinformation and distortion".

Airbnb is considering an IPO next year after announcing in February that it would not make a public debut this year.

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Airbnb came under Palestinian criticism for such listings, which some find misleading for failing to mention the property is on occupied land claimed by the Palestinians.

"This is a controversial issue", Airbnb said.

Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan, charged with fighting boycotts, said Airbnb "will have to explain why they specifically, and uniquely, chose to implement this political and discriminatory decision in the case of citizens of the State of Israel".

Waleed Assraf, head of a Palestinian anti-settlement group run by the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organisation, welcomed Airbnb's decision.

The NGO also urged other companies to follow suit. She criticized Airbnb's decision.

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