Airbnb faces criticism for listing Israeli settlements while pushing for diversity

An Airbnb ad from 2014 / Airbnb


Airbnb wants you to know they embrace diversity. The online house-sharing app has released a minute-long short film pledging acceptance among hosts and guests. The video opens with on screen text reading  “We believe that no matter who you are, where you’re from, or where you travel, you should be able to belong in the Airbnb community.”

The ad featured faces of Airbnb hosts,  of varying ages, races and cultural backgrounds.

“By joining this community,” says Airbnb in the short film, “you commit to treat all fellow members, regardless of race, sex, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability, national origin, gender identity or age with respect and without judgement or bias.”

The ad was released after the controversial US election campaign in which US President-elect Donald Trump and his supporters spoke openly against immigration, LGBTQ, and women’s rights. In the fallout, people of colour have said they are worried about their rights and the possibility of racial violence perpetrated by those supporters. Racial bias, and discrimination based on sexual orientation has been a problem for the company since its founding and the company is now urging hosts to ‘accept’ guests regardless of visible differences.

“The world is a much more beautiful place when you accept,” is the message Airbnb closes the short film with. Some say Airbnb may have gone too far with its openness.

Ariel Gold, Palestine campaigner for the grassroots social justice organization Code Pink, rushed the stage during an Airbnb discussion panel featuring actor Ashton Kutcher to speak out against Airbnb listings in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Kutcher, an investor in the company, said that with Airbnb, people can “get to know each other and bring each other together in a peaceful unity that doesn’t have borders, that doesn’t discriminate against one another. You can get to know each other intimately and understand our collective narrative is a narrative for everyone and that we all can belong in a world together without borders.”

Gold says that many of the Airbnb listing in the West Bank are actually in illegal settlements.

“I was here to ask Airbnb to finally stop allowing the listing of homes in illegal settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem,” Gold told Adweek, after her unscheduled appearance on stage. “The Stolen Homes Coalition, which Code Pink is a part of, has collected more than 150,000 signatures asking Airbnb to remove these listing as illegal settlements. [They] are part of Israel’s systematic discrimination against the Palestinians.”

Airbnb was founded in San Francisco in 2008 and allows users to list their homes for short-term vacation rentals. “Airbnb connects people to unique travel experiences, at any price point, in more than 34,000 cities and 191 countries,” says the company on their website. The company and its hosts have served over 60 million guests since their founding, and claim to list more than 1600 castles for rental on their app.

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