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After Airbnb, HRW calls on Booking.com to remove illegal Israel settlement listings

Israeli settlements are considered illegal under international law [Getty]

Date of publication: 21 November, 2018

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Rights activists on Tuesday urged Booking.com to follow the example of Airbnb and withdraw listings for rentals in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Rights activists on Tuesday urged Booking.com to follow the example of Airbnb and withdraw listings for rentals in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Rights activists on Tuesday urged Booking.com to follow the example of Airbnb and withdraw listings for rentals in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, despite Israel calling the move "disgusting" and threatened legal action.

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

Israel strongly denounced Airbnb's decision and threatened legal action against the company, while Palestinian officials welcomed it.

The US-based rights group HRW issued its report on Tuesday and called on Booking.com to follow Airbnb's "positive step".

"By ending its brokering of rentals in illegal settlements on land off-limits to Palestinians, Airbnb has taken a stand against discrimination and land confiscation and theft," Omar Shakir, HRW's director for Israel and the Palestinian territories, told AFP.

"It is an important and welcome step and we encourage other companies like Booking.com to follow their lead and stop listing in settlements."

HRW issued the report on the online reservations firms, entitled "Bed and Breakfast on Stolen Land," along with Israeli NGO Kerem Navot.

It says Airbnb, based in the United States, listed at least 139 properties in West Bank settlements between March and July.

"Israelis and foreigners may rent properties in settlements, but Palestinian ID holders are effectively barred," HRW said.

That is "the only example in the world the organisations found in which Airbnb hosts have no choice but to discriminate against guests based on national or ethnic origin," it said.

According to HRW, Booking.com, based in the Netherlands, had 26 properties in West Bank settlements as of July, 17 which were on land Israel acknowledges is privately owned by Palestinians.

Booking.com did not indicate it would be changing its policy, telling AFP it permits "all accommodation providers worldwide to list on our platform as long as they are in compliance with applicable laws."

"Everything we do in terms of how we display information is always in accordance with local laws to provide transparency to anybody looking for accommodation on our site," a statement from Booking.com said.

Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin on Tuesday threatened legal action against Airbnb in the United States and Israel over its move, branding it "hypocritical and disgusting".

In contrast, senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat has welcomed Airbnb's decision as "an initial positive step".

"Israeli settlements are not just an obstacle to peace, but defy the very definition of peace," he said in a statement.

Israeli settlements are considered illegal under international law and major roadblocks to peace, as they are built on land Palestinians see as part of their future state.

Around 400,000 Israelis live in West Bank settlements, which range in size from tiny hamlets to large towns. A further 200,000 live in settlements in occupied east Jerusalem.

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