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Airbnb must also withdraw from the occupied Golan Heights

December 1, 2018 at 1:00 pm

In aiding and abetting this project, Airbnb is complicit in ongoing war crimes. Airbnb Office [FlickR]

In November, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement won its latest of many such victories against Israeli occupation and racism.

After a sustained three-year BDS campaign, the popular online holiday-home rental company Airbnb finally bowed to pressure and agreed to delist properties based in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

All Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are illegal under international law. Airbnb said that it had removed some 200 such listings from its site. In a statement the company explained that: “Many in the global community have stated that companies should not do business here because they believe companies should not profit on lands where people have been displaced.”

Palestinians are indeed being systematically evicted from their homes, villages, towns and cities by Israeli forces, with colonial settlements only for Jews often being built on the ruins. This has been the case for many decades now, since the very dawn of political Zionism’s settler-colonial project in the land of Palestine.

This project vastly accelerated in 1948, when Zionist militias forced the majority of the Palestinian people from their homes by force through the use of bombings, massacres, disinformation, systematic war crimes and rape. The ongoing project of settlement in the occupied West Bank is only the latest manifestation of Israel’s white supremacist regime.

In aiding and abetting this project, Airbnb is complicit in ongoing war crimes. It is therefore to be welcomed that it has conceded to campaigners’ demands and delisted these properties. Yet the move is by no means enough, therefore the BDS campaign against Airbnb continues, Palestine’s BDS National Committee announced.

Read: Airbnb faces Israeli class-action lawsuit for delisting settlements

For one thing, Airbnb rentals situated in Israeli settlements in occupied East Jerusalem continue to be listed on the site – in continuing violation of international law. Secondly, the site continues to list Airbnb rentals in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The Golan Heights is a part of south-west Syria which was illegally occupied by Israel during the 1967 War against Syria, Egypt, Jordan and the Palestinians. The Golan has been illegally occupied ever since. Despite multiple UN Security Council condemnations, Israel continues to act in defiance of international law, even illegally annexing the territory in the 1980s.

A phenomenal new report by Syrian human rights centre Al-Marsad details the catastrophic impact of the Israeli occupation’s settlement industries upon the Syrian people there.

When Israel invaded the Golan Heights, 95 per cent of the Syrian people who lived there were either driven out at gun point or forced to flee Israel’s war. This amounted to 130,000 people. Much like the Palestinian victims of similar Israeli acts of ethnic cleansing, those Syrian refugees have never been allowed to return to their homes.

Israel also bulldozed and dynamited 340 out of the 345 Syrian villages in the Golan Heights to cement its control of the territory and make it harder for the refugees to return to their homes. Their homes were blown up by the supposed “only democracy in the Middle East”.

Many illegal Israeli settlements which now exist in the Golan Heights are built – very literally – on the ruins of the Syrian villages blown up by Israel’s 1967 death squads. It is from those same settlements that Israeli colonists today rent their properties on Airbnb and run their exploitative colonial businesses.

Read: Jewish Americans sue Airbnb over West Bank listing ban

Today – as Al-Marsad’s report details – although the number of Israelis and Syrians living in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights is roughly equal, Israelis control 95 per cent of the land. Syrians are confined to five villages in the north, on a mere five per cent of the land – yet another example of Israel’s apartheid system.

The report contains a ground-breaking appendix detailing the first comprehensive list of Israeli settlement businesses operating in the Golan Heights. This should prove an essential tool for BDS activists (the BDS call explicitly included a demand for the end to the Israeli occupation of all Arab territories, as such including the Golan).

The supposedly “Israeli” Golan Heights is today marketed as a holiday destination, winery and agricultural haven. Yet the reality is that Israel stole those bountiful natural resources from the Syrians that they drove from the land. As the report explains:

The Golan is well suited to grow various fruits and other crops. Before Israel’s occupation, the native Syrian population raised livestock and grew grains, fruits and vegetables. Today, Syrians only grow apples and cherries in the Golan, while Israeli settlers cultivate everything that the Syrians used to produce and more.

Something to think about next time you see “Israeli wine” for sale.

Further, this example serves as yet another example of the lie behind Israel’s myth (shamefully promoted by Labour’s Emily Thornberry) that Zionism’s arrival in the lands of the Levant “made the desert bloom”.

Palestine and Syria were already blooming before Zionism invaded, and will do so again once it has been defeated.

Read: Students from 30 UK universities protest against investment in Israel occupation

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.