Online accommodation and tourism giant Airbnb has been accused of “complicity in the plunder of Palestinian refugee properties”, in a new report published last week.
According to Who Profits, an independent research centre focused on exposing corporate involvement in the “ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestinian and Syrian lands”, their new update sheds light on a “largely overlooked” dimension of Airbnb’s “complicity”.
Taking the Old City of Yafa (Jaffa) as a case study, the new report “aims to highlight the ways in which Israel confiscated and controlled Palestinian properties, leading to their privatisation”.
“Israel has transformed properties into economic assets that benefit both the state and private actors, thus undermining Palestinians’ legally enshrined Right of Return,” stated the research centre.
“Serving as a platform for showcasing the homes that once belonged to Palestinians, Airbnb plays a role in strengthening the Israeli hold over Palestinian refugee properties,” Who Profits added.
During the Nakba of 1948, more than 750,000 Palestinians were expelled from their homes and lands – property that was subsequently appropriated by the Israeli state “through legal mechanisms that formalise their confiscation and turn them into economic assets”, Who Profits explained.
According to the centre, this “privatisation” of refugee properties has benefitted market actors and Jewish Israelis, “whilst further threatening the possibility of Palestinians reclaiming ownership of their properties in the future”.
In the case of Jaffa, what was once the largest Palestinian city was almost entirely ethnically cleansed during the Nakba (five per cent of its Palestinian residents remained post-1948). Today, the Old City is one of the most popular sites in Israel for tourists, where Airbnb lists more than 40 properties.
In its new report, Who Profit notes that “while the issue of listing settlement properties [in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem] has gained worldwide attention, the issue of listing refugee properties ‘abandoned’ in 1948 remains largely overlooked.”
“The act of plundering and privatizing refugee properties by the Israeli state, which started during the Nakba and continues to this day, has transformed the refugee properties in Yafa into commodities that can now be listed by hosts on platforms such as Airbnb,” the report concluded.
“In serving as a platform for these properties, as well as those in settlements in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, Airbnb is profiting from the ongoing dispossession of Palestinians.”