Since its inception or, perhaps, since it became profitable, AirBnB, the home-sharing behemoth, has been accused of everything from enabling its users to operate illegal hotels to driving up the cost of housing in cities around the world. The company argues that its platform helps its landlords make ends meet and allows travelers a more unique and affordable experience, all while extracting a nifty fee from each party.
To that dynamic, now add one of the world’s most intractable and polarizing disputes: the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In recent weeks, the San Francisco-based company has weathered criticism for allowing users to rent apartments in West Bank settlements, which are widely seen internationally as being illegal and have long been the target of boycotts and other alienating measures. (On Tuesday, for example, the U.S. State Department said it supported a European Union initiative to place labels on products denoting that they were made in the West Bank.)
The dispute blossomed to the point that earlier this month, Saeb Erekat, the senior Palestinian official and leader of the last round of failed peace talks, wrote AirBnB CEO Brian Chesky a letter to demand the company not allow listings in settlements. Other Palestinians say the company “profits on the [Israeli] occupation” or otherwise legitimatizes the settlement enterprise.