Amnesty International was among the groups accusing Airbnb of enabling human rights violations on Wednesday after the company reversed its decision to ban listings of illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Back in November the San Francisco-based company announced that it would no longer offer some 200 listings of Jewish settlements in the West Bank, viewing settlements as "at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians."
Airbnb's u-turn was announced in statement Tuesday, which says that the company "has always opposed the BDS movement." The change of stance, the company said, was to bring an end to the lawsuits.
"Under the settlement terms, Airbnb will not move forward with implementing the removal of listings in the West Bank from the platform," the company said.
That decision, said Amnesty International's business and human rights researcher Mark Dummett, is "a reprehensible and cowardly move that will be another devastating blow for the human rights of Palestinians."
The company attempted to whitewash the move by saying that it would donate profits from the illegal settlement rentals to charities. But Dummett charged that doing so "fails to change the fact that by continuing to drive tourism to illegal settlements they are helping to boost the settlement economy." As a result, the company is "directly contributing to the maintenance and expansion of illegal settlements, a breach of the Geneva Conventions and a war crime under Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court."
"Airbnb had a clear opportunity to make the right decision to uphold human rights and use their influence to set a precedent in the tourism industry," he added. "Instead, they have chosen to bury their heads in the sand."
Jewish Voice for Peace greeted the company's announcement with similar outrage—and said Airbnb should expect a renewed wave of public pressure.
"The reneging on a commitment to delist from the settlements is a betrayal of all the human rights organizations and activists who cheered Airbnb's November 2018 decision," said Granate Kim, communications director at Jewish Voice for Peace. "If Airbnb wants to continue to allow rental suites on the ruins of Palestinian lives and land then they will continue to get pressured to do the right thing."
"There's no 'two sides' of a so-called conflict in the settlements," she said. "It's stolen land from Palestinians, plain and simple."