Eugene Kontorovich: Airbnb’s Anti-Israel Hypocrisy
The tech company will operate anywhere and serve anyone—except Jews in the West Bank.
Two very different organizations took action last week against Jews owning property in the West Bank. The Palestinian Authority sentenced two Palestinians to 15 years hard labor for selling land to Jews. And Airbnb, the tech behemoth and online marketplace for lodging, announced it would no longer serve Jewish communities in the West Bank. The two actions differ in brutality but are based on the same idea: Jews should have no home in the West Bank.
Under Airbnb’s policy, an American Jew with a rental property in the West Bank is barred from listing it for rent on the website. But an American Arab is welcome to list his home a few hundred meters away, even though the Palestinian law forbidding real-estate deals with Jews carries a maximum penalty of death. That openly racist policy doesn’t trigger Airbnb’s delisting policy.
Airbnb admits the West Bank is the site of complicated “historical disputes.” Until 1948, the West Bank was part of the League of Nations’ 1922 British Mandate for Palestine, created to become a “national home” for the Jewish people. In 1947, the U.N. General Assembly passed a non-binding resolution suggesting the territory be divided into Arab and Jewish states, an idea the Arabs immediately shot down. Indeed, when the mandate ended and Israel declared independence in 1948, all its Arab neighbors invaded immediately. Jordan occupied the West Bank and massacred or expelled every Jew in the area, took their homes and destroyed their synagogues. Israel only regained the West Bank after Jordan foolishly attacked again in 1967. Many Jews then returned, including to lands Jews had purchased before Israeli independence.
Since then, the dispute has narrowed. Israel signed the Oslo Accords with the Palestinian leadership in 1993, leaving all settlements—the new and returning Jewish communities—under complete Israeli control. Jordan and Israel signed a peace treaty in 1994. To be sure, the Palestinians still demand the removal of Jews from the entire West Bank. But Airbnb’s policy applies only to the Israeli—primarily Jewish—communities in the disputed territories.
Israeli cities in the West Bank are open to any lawful resident of Israel, including Arabs. By contrast, any Jew who enters the West Bank’s Palestinian towns risks his life.
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— Caroline Glick (@CarolineGlick) November 26, 2018
An NGO published a report on Monday charging hypocrisy against boycotts of Israel in the aftermath of Airbnb’s boycott of Jewish West Bank settlements and with the UN Human Rights Council close to publishing a blacklist of companies that still do business there.
The report by Professor Eugene Kontorovich of the Kohelet Policy Forum said that “major American and European companies like Airbnb, Coca Cola, Ford and Caterpillar continue to legally do business in occupied territories worldwide without hinderance. That is because – except when `Israel is involved – no one believes such business is actually illegal.”
Regarding Airbnb, Kontorovich said that the company was now trying to get itself off of the UNHRC blacklist by boycotting Jewish West Bank settlements and there was a danger that other companies could follow suit. He added that it was unclear whether Airbnb would even succeed in getting itself taken off the list since it was not boycotting disputed areas of Jerusalem.
Deputy Minister of Diplomacy in the Prime Minister’s Office, Michael Oren commended the “Who Else Profits II” report, stating, “This treatment isn’t being handed out to any other country in the world, which means its inherently anti-semitic.”
A past similar report by Kontorovich in summer 2017 alleged that the UN Human Rights Council was turning a blind eye to more than 40 European companies that operate in four other areas deemed occupied territory by the UN.
The other occupied areas listed by the reports are: Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara, Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus, Armenian-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh and Russian-occupied portions of Ukraine.
The extremist American Jewish non-profit organization, The New Israel Fund (NIF) is yet again part and parcel of boycott efforts against the State of Israel. Along with its stated policy of endorsing a boycott against Israel, non-profit organizations financed by the NIF were integral to influencing Airbnb’s decision to remove listings for homes in “Israeli settlements in the Occupied West Bank.”
As a report by NGO Watch noted, “This change in policy was a clear result of a coordinated and well-financed campaign targeting the company by NGOs involved in BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) campaigns against Israel, led by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), in concert with the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), at least three Israeli groups, and the Palestinian Authority. The funders responsible for this campaign include a number of European governments as well as the US-based Rockefeller Brothers Fund.”
Who are these Israeli non-profits?
Kerem Navot co-authored a November 2018 report with Human Rights Watch, entitled “Bed and Breakfast on Stolen Land:
Tourist Rental Listings in West Bank Settlements” which alleges that that Airbnb (and Booking.com) “facilitat[e] Israel’s unlawful transfer of its citizens to the settlements.” Kerem Navot is funded by NIF, and the organizations leaders come from NIF backed organizations.
Who Profits posted a profile of Airbnb, listing its owners, investors, contact information, and details on “listings on Airbnb’s website …in … illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian and Syrian territories.”
Airbnb was also featured in the NGO’s October 2017 report and accompanying political campaign, “Touring Israeli Settlements Business and Pleasure for the Economy of Occupation.”
A media outlet financed by NIF, +972 published an article “Airbnb lets you vacation in illegal West Bank Settlements,” which claimed discrimination alleging “thinly veiled discrimination along ethnic or national lines.”
Airbnb was wrong and its decision is racist and Anti-semitic.
It was only recently that Abbas Zaki, a member of the Central Committee of Fatah and a senior Palestinian leader, addressed first-year students at Al Quds Open University in Nablus.
In his address, which was monitored by Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), Zaki told the first-year students that real men court death if it means advancing the Palestinian cause, that they are cursed if they do not sacrifice for Jerusalem and that those who die a normal death are cowards.
“Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar! Cursed is anyone who doesn’t sacrifice for Jerusalem,” he told the students.
A little while before that, WAFA, the official Palestinian Authority (PA) news agency, ran a piece on matriculation day for Grade 12 students, noting that 16 of their contemporaries in the same grade had been killed during attacks on Israelis that year. The news agency said that their path to martyrdom made their families proud and that those who died in that way showed the path to excellence and greatness.
That news report was also monitored by PMW, which follows Palestinian television and radio broadcasts. PMW’s 20 Arab-speaking employees also scan social media, analyze school textbooks and read Palestinian newspapers.
These media outlets offer “a window into Palestinians society,” and lately they show a society that’s hell-bent on preparing their children to attack and kill Jews, to expect death and to glory in martyrdom in the name of Allah, said Itamar Marcus, founder and director of PMW.
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman denied on Monday that the administration is considering postponing the publication of its much-awaited peace proposal, saying that the plan will be released whenever it has the best chance of success.
“I would like to reaffirm that the United States remains committed to sharing its vision for peace with Israel, the Palestinians and other regional and international stakeholders at the appropriate time,” he said in a rare written statement posted to the website of the US Embassy.
Friedman confirmed a report last week about a top-level meeting to discuss the content and timing of the peace plan. Besides Friedman, the meeting was attended by US President Donald Trump, senior adviser Jared Kushner, chief peace envoy Jason Greenblatt, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and National Security Adviser John Bolton.
The meeting was “very productive,” Friedman said, noting that participants “discussed the president’s vision for comprehensive peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” but not offering further details.
He did lament, however, that media reports of the meeting “have been wildly inaccurate.”
Israel’s self-proclaimed “best friend,” Czech President Milos Zeman, gave a “message of solidarity with Israel and the Jewish People” in his speech to the Knesset on Monday.
“Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu said the Czech Republic is Israel’s best friend in Europe. I wonder, why only Europe?” Zeman quipped in English. “Anyway, I am the best friend of Israel in my whole country.”
Zeman cited historic Czech support for Israel and the Jewish People, and called the European Parliament’s “support for Palestinian terrorists” shameful.
“If we betray Israel, we betray ourselves,” he said, to applause from MKs.
Zeman expressed hope that Tuesday’s planned dedication of a Czech House – dealing with Czech-Israel tourism, trade and other areas – will lead to the moving of the Czech Embassy to Jerusalem.
“I am no dictator, unfortunately, but I promise I will do my best,” he added.
Netanyahu and Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein’s addresses to the Knesset mentioned the history of Czech Jewry, as well as Czechoslovakia’s first president Tomasz Masaryk, who opposed antisemitism and supported Zionism, and is the namesake of a town in northern Israel.
The leaders also thanked the Czech people for their support for Israel’s Independence, including supplying military weapons and providing training for fledgling Israeli pilots.
“The Czech Republic and Israel are small but great democracies,” Netanyahu said, “Israel raises the torch of freedom. You also sought freedom.”
Czech President Milos Zeman on Monday expressed skepticism over the possibility of a two-state solution, saying he was interested in learning more about alternative approaches to solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“I was inspired by your idea about one state with two nations, and I know this idea is provocative — any big and great idea is provocative,” Zeman told President Reuven Rivlin during a meeting in Jerusalem.
“I wonder what will be your arguments for this idea, because for many, many decades, there is a discussion about two independent states. But frankly, I do not see [an] independent state in Gaza, because I understand Hamas as a terror organization and not as a state,” he went on.
During their subsequent private meeting, Rivlin picked up on Zeman’s comment about a one-state solution, but refrained from fully endorsing any model for solving the conflict with the Palestinians.
“When I am talking about Israel, I mean Israel is a Jewish and Democratic state. Israel cannot be a Jewish state without being a democratic one, and it cannot be a democratic one without being a Jewish state,” he said.
Representatives of Arab League member states at the MED 2018 conference in Rome last Thursday either ignored or downplayed the Palestinian issue. Instead, on the stage and behind the scenes, there seemed much more appetite for normalization with Israel.
Oman’s Foreign Minister said it quite clearly when he called on the Arab world to “come to terms with the reality that Israel is a fact of life in the region,” and therefore should have its share of “rights as well as obligations.”
Even Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, seemed to realize that this wasn’t a venue for Israel-bashing and refrained from mentioning Israel in his talk.
One senior Middle Eastern diplomat commented that “the basic fact is that, for better or worse, the world isn’t bothering Israel anymore about the Palestinians. It’s a total change of paradigm.”
One leading European expert on the Middle East echoed the widespread feeling. “It’s hard for me now to convince editors and think-tank directors of the need to write papers on Israel and Palestine. No one can see any point, and quite frankly, I’m not sure I can either.”
I had the honor of serving as Israel’s ambassador to Chad between 1969 and 1971. On the very day I entered office, Libyan revolutionary Moammar Gadhafi seized power over his country and singled out Israel as the enemy of the Libyan revolution.
Was Gadhafi right about this? Well, perhaps. Situated south of Libya and west of Sudan, Chad is in a delicate geopolitical position in terms of Israel and the Arab world. Gadhafi wanted to rule over Chad, a country with valuable resources such as uranium and oil; in short, a country with power.
But Gadhafi feared that if he made a move there, hostile forces would likely close in on him from all sides – from the Arab world, and, more importantly, from Israel.
My term as ambassador was quite challenging. Chad is a predominantly Muslim country, but in the years I was posted there, the president, Francois Tombalbaye, was a member of the Christian minority. He feared Gadhafi, so for him, Israel was an important ally.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met on Sunday in Jerusalem with Chadian President Idriss Deby — who was making the first-ever visit to the Jewish state by a leader of the Muslim-majority central African nation.
“Israel is coming back to Africa and Africa is coming back to Israel,” Netanyahu said at a joint press conference with Deby.
“Israel has worked with all the African countries on agriculture and water,” the prime minister noted. “This was discontinued. Now it’s flourishing again.”
Deby said, “This visit will open a new page, a new way and will give us the opportunity to express our great appreciation to the efforts you’re making to bring our two countries closer together.”
Citing Chadian government sources, Reuters reported that security was at the top of Deby’s agenda. Israel, Reuters said, has supplied the Chadian military — which has been battling rebels in the northern part of the country — with weapons and other equipment this year.
Israel is currently in the late stages of forging diplomatic relations with the Persian Gulf state of Bahrain, media reports revealed Sunday.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted at the process on Sunday in a surprise announcement he made during his historic meeting with the visiting president of Muslim-majority Chad, Idriss Déby.
“Very soon, we will be holding visits in other Muslim countries,” Netanyahu said.
Netanyahu and his ministers have visited a number of Persian Gulf states in recent weeks. Although he did not specify his next planned Arab destination, local media said Israel was already talking to Bahrain about establishing official ties, making it a likely port of call.
Meanwhile, Israeli Economy Minister Eli Cohen said Monday that he had been invited to attend a conference next year in Bahrain.
Cohen told Army Radio the invitation was to a conference in the first quarter of 2019 “in the realm of technology and high-tech, in which the State of Israel is certainly a leader.” He did not say whether he planned to attend.
Asked to elaborate, an Israeli official familiar with Cohen’s affairs said the event to which he had been invited was the Startup Nations Ministerial conference on April 15, a forum for public policymakers to discuss how to promote entrepreneurs.
Three IDF soldiers were injured in a suspect car-ramming attack at the Gush Etzion junction in the West Bank south of Jerusalem, the IDF confirmed on Monday.
The military said the troops were hit while they were doing construction work on a road between Beit Ummar and El-Aroub.
Magen David Adom paramedics said two were lightly injured and evacuated to a nearby hospital. The third, who was moderately injured with a reported head injury, was taken via ambulance to Hadassah Ein Kerem Medical Center. His condition was later downgraded to light.
The driver, identified by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society as Ramzi Abu Yabes from the Dheisheh refugee camp, died at the scene after being shot by an IDF reservist on duty.
According to Palestinian Maan News Agency, Yabes was on his way to work as a nurse at the Arab Rehabilitation Association in Bethlehem along with his wife, Manal, who was also injured.
Following the attack the Commander of the Judea and Samaria Division Brig.-Gen. Eran Niv held a situational assessment at the scene along with Col. David Shapira, the Commander of the Etzion Regional Brigade.
פיגוע דריסה בגוש עציון: שלושה חיילים נפצעו, המחבל נוטרל. צפו בתיעוד pic.twitter.com/n83bvNM5l9
— מעריב אונליין (@MaarivOnline) November 26, 2018
The Israel Air Force received another two F-35i “Adir” stealth fighter jets on Sunday, bringing the total number of advanced jets in the Golden Eagle Squadron to 14.
The pair of fifth-generation jets landed at the IAF’s Nevatim Airbase, southeast of Beersheba.
Israel received its first two Adir fighter jets from the United States in December 2016.T he aircraft were declared operational approximately a year later making the IAF the only air force in the Middle East to have the stealth fighter jets battle-ready.
In mid-November, the US Air Force held its F-35 UGWG (Users Group Working Group) in Israel, a conference for countries flying the advanced jet that was founded by the commander of the United States Air Forces in Europe – Air Forces Africa.
Delegates from Israel and various European countries including Britain, the Netherlands and others participated in the second annual conference.
10 days, 2 fronts, 1 mission: defend the State of Israel. pic.twitter.com/2SdT2xlarr
— Israel Defense Forces (@IDFSpokesperson) November 25, 2018
Daniel Pipes, a historian and president of the Middle East Forum, said: “I understand that the prime minister is looking at the larger threats in Israel’s north and beyond that to Iran, and I respect that. But timid Israeli actions prolong Palestinian rejectionism, and Hamas having plausibly declared victory makes it stronger.”
“A Palestinian defeat — an end of conflict — is now more remote,” he added.
Still, many in Israel’s defense establishment and other experts backed Netanyahu’s plan to calm the storm, and don’t see a loss in deterrence, since Israel remains much more powerful.
Col. (ret.) Dr. Eran Lerman, former deputy director of the National Security Council and currently the vice president of the Jerusalem Institute for Strategic Studies, said, “The declarations that Hamas won may lead Hamas to the very wrong conclusion that we are weak and irresolute.”
Looking at how Israelis reacted to Lieberman’s resignation, “you could easily [think they came to] the same conclusion,” said Lerman.
“This can indeed have dangerous consequences unless we take preemptive actions to make the public realize that the next round may look quite different,” continued Lerman. “The IDF’s ability to hit targets without a massive loss of life should be read as a sign of highly developed capability, not of timidity.”
The issue could resurface at any time of Hamas’ choosing. In the future, Hamas could use what it learned in this round of fighting to its advantage, thinking that Israel is reluctant to go to war right now. It may test those limits, seeing how far it can go to create internal Israeli tensions without provoking an all-out military clash.
Thirty-two residents of east Jerusalem were arrested by Israeli police in a raid Sunday night on suspicion of joining and serving in the Palestinian armed forces.
The 32 men are all residents of east Jerusalem and some receive Israeli government benefits, but they are not Israeli citizens.
The police stated that they had seized tens of thousands of shekels in cash and foreign currency, ammunition, Palestinian police badges, uniforms, military equipment as well as photos and certification documents from the suspects’ homes.
The arrests followed a covert investigation by the Israel Police’s central investigative unit. The men are accused of working for the Palestinian security forces in violation of Section 7 of the Implementation Law, which prohibits enlistment in the Palestinian Authority’s armed forces. If found guilty, the suspects could face a minimum of seven years in prison.
All the detainees were taken for questioning at the central investigative unit and were to be brought in for remand hearings later in the day.
Since 2017, when five countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) severed diplomatic and trade ties with Qatar for siding with the Muslim Brotherhood and other terrorist groups, Doha has been forging new alliances, particularly with Russia and China.
During a military parade in December 2017, Qatar’s armed forces showcased new Chinese guided ballistic-missile systems that have a range — up to 400 km — that encompasses Qatar’s neighboring Gulf States. In September 2018, PetroChina struck a long-term deal with Qatargas to purchase 3.4 million tons per year of liquid natural gas.
Defense and economic ties with Qatar are crucial to China’s plans to extend its influence in the Middle East through the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). China is aware that for the BRI to be successful, the GCC must be reunited. Given its own cordial relations with the GCC, Beijing sees engagement with Doha as an opportunity to become a key mediator in the Qatar-GCC crisis.
Qatar is also in talks to purchase Russia’s S-400 air-defense system. Despite Saudi Arabia’s reported opposition to the deal, Russia says it is moving forward anyway.
With Russia under U.S. sanctions, and Qatar under a GCC blockade, defense and trade ties between Moscow and Doha are mutually beneficial. In 2016, for example, Qatar purchased a huge stake in Russia’s state-controlled oil company, Rosneft.
“Turkey has been committing two major international crimes against Cyprus. It has invaded and divided a small, weak but modern and independent European state… Turkey has also changed the demographic character of the island and has devoted itself to the systematic destruction and obliteration of the cultural heritage of the areas under its military control.” — from “The Loss of a Civilization: Destruction of cultural heritage in occupied Cyprus.”
“More than 550 Greek Orthodox churches, chapels and monasteries located in towns and villages of the occupied areas, have been pillaged, deliberately vandalized and, in some cases, demolished. Many Christian places of worship have been converted into mosques, depots of the Turkish army, stockyards and hay barns.” — Cyprus Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
“UNESCO considers the intentional destruction of cultural heritage a war crime.” — Artnet News, 2017.
Last week the president issued America’s official reaction to the killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Ankara. He made clear that this crime, awful as it was, is not sufficient reason to override the strategic reasons for the U.S.-Saudi alliance. Elliott Abrams admires the administration’s commitment to Realpolitik, but only up to a point:
The problem with this analysis [presented by the Trump administration] is not that it is wrong, but that it posits only two options: abandoning Saudi Arabia or embracing it. A tougher Realpolitik approach would promote a third option: use this moment to push the Saudis to do some things we think they need to do that would benefit both the kingdom and the United States. . . .
[I]f the Trump administration’s view is that we should not break with Saudi Arabia (a view I share), then the next step is not to embrace Saudi Arabia but rather [to] specify to the Saudis what they need to do so that they will not be seen as “a repressive throwback to a dark age of the past” [as Richard Nixon put it long ago to a Chinese leader, urging him be more attentive to human rights]. Send the Saudi foreign minister to fix things with Canada. Figure out a way to release the blogger Raif Badawi and the female Saudi protesters who appear to have been badly abused since their arrests. Reunite the Gulf Cooperation Council, [which has been riven by a dispute between Saudi Arabia and Qatar]. . . .
The pure Realpolitik approach is not the one I favor, because I believe the moral element in U.S. foreign policy is critical to its success and to our international standing. But if the administration has decided on a realist approach, go all the way with it: demand a price in Saudi actions for the support we give.
Muslim Brotherhood TV: Perpetrator of the Ras Burqa Massacre Was “A Hero Who Fulfilled His Duty” pic.twitter.com/EX6KNT0xbd
— MEMRI (@MEMRIReports) November 26, 2018
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