Airbnb has reversed its decision to ban rental listings in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which is considered an occupied Palestinian territory by the International Court of Justice.
The change in the company’s position follows a number of lawsuits filed against it in both the US and Israel which alleged that Airbnb’s ban was discriminatory on the basis of potential hosts and guests’ religion.
Airbnb stated it had settled the lawsuits and will not remove listings in the West Bank from its platform.
However, it added that the company will take no profits from these locations, and will instead donate those funds to humanitarian aid organisations.
The company’s announcement comes just ahead of an expected victory in Israel’s national elections for incumbent Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu, who promised to annex parts of the West Bank if elected again.
The company stated that the planned removal of the listings was not part of the BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement which campaigns for international boycotts against Israel.
“Airbnb has never boycotted Israel, Israeli businesses, or the more than 20,000 Israeli hosts who are active on the Airbnb platform,” the company stated.
“We have always sought to bring people together and will continue to work with our community to achieve this goal.”
The Israel and Palestine director for Human Rights Watch, Omar Shakir, described the company’s decision as disappointing on Twitter.
Mr Shakir said: “Donating profits from unlawful settlement listings does nothing to remedy ‘human suffering’ they’ve acknowledged causing. By continuing to do business in settlements, they remain complicit in abuses.”
The company’s policy on “disputed regions” will also apply to South Ossetia and Abkhazia, regions in the Caucasus which are disputed between the states of Georgia and Russia following the 2008 war.