Airbnb is denying widespread reports Monday it was suspending its recently announced policy to exclude Israeli settlement homes in the West Bank from its listings, creating confusion when it appeared to release contradictory statements in English and Hebrew about the matter.
Multiple outlets reported earlier in the day on the company, an online marketplace for users to rent private homes around the world, had said the policy "will not be implemented." However, it later called those reports inaccurate and said it was meeting with "a variety of stakeholders" to gain an "even deeper understanding that this is an incredibly complex and emotional issue."
A spokesman told the Washington Free Beacon the earlier statement was "released in error."
"The reports issued earlier today are inaccurate. Airbnb expressed its unequivocal rejection of the BDS movement and communicated its commitment to develop its business in Israel, enabling more tourists from around the world to enjoy the wonders of the country and its people," Airbnb said in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon. "We are here to meet with a variety of stakeholders and as a result of our meetings have an even deeper understanding that this is an incredibly complex and emotional issue. Airbnb communicated that we are developing the tools needed to implement our policy and that process includes continuing our dialogue with the Government of Israel and other stakeholders."
Asked to clarify if that meant the policy of banning the Jewish settlement listings remained in place, spokesman Nick Papas repeated,"We are developing the tools needed to implement our policy."
Haaretz reporter Noa Landau tweeted out the two statements from the company in Hebrew and English; the Hebrew one said the policy wouldn't be implemented.
For all those interested: Here‘s @Airbnb’s Hebrew announcement vs. the English one ('the policy will not be implemented" vs. 'this is an incredibly complex & emotional issue". I emailed their VP asking about the difference. Did not receive a straight answer yet pic.twitter.com/w6ErWCe3FP
— Noa Landau נעה לנדאו (@noa_landau) December 17, 2018
The company blacklisted about 200 homes in Area C of the West Bank last month, citing "various experts" that led them to decide "we should remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians."
But following a meeting with Israeli tourism minister Yaval Levin, who slammed the initial decision, Airbnb said in a statement to Haaretz the policy would not go into action.
"Our policy will not be implemented," Airbnb said before apparently backtracking. "The company will continue its dialogue with the Israeli government."
It also expressed sharp condemnation of the BDS movement, which has been labeled by the Anti-Defamation League as one of the most deceitful global efforts to undermine Israel.
"Airbnb expressed its unequivocal rejection of the BDS movement and communicated its commitment to develop its business in Israel, enabling more tourists from around the world to enjoy the wonders of the country and its people," the company said in a statement to news organizations. "We are here to meet with a variety of stakeholders, and as a result of our meetings, have an even deeper understanding that this is an incredibly complex and emotional issue."
The Times of Israel reported the new statements appeared to show it has "yet to establish a mechanism for its site to differentiate between Israeli and Palestinian listings in the West Bank."
Levin called it a "a step in the right direction" and said he will "continue to make sure all Israeli citizens get equal treatment, and keep on strengthening tourism in Israel, including in Judea and Samaria." Samaria is the Biblical name for the West Bank territory, Haaretz notes.
The statement given "in error" that led to Israel cheering an end to the blacklisting was from Airbnb's Israel representative Yuval Lidor, The Times of Israel reported:
A spokeswoman for the Tourism Ministry said that the statement had been in response to one that she had received from Yuval Lidor, a representative of Airbnb in Israel.
But while Lidor had indeed issued a statement saying that the settlement boycott "would not be implemented in practice," he later appeared to walk back that announcement, asking The Times of Israel to refer exclusively to the English press release from Papas — one that appeared to deny that Airbnb had changed its mind.
The initial blacklisting was praised by Palestinians and groups that support the BDS movement, which has been condemned by the Anti-Defamation League.
"International companies are interested in doing business with the State of Israel, but are unwilling to accept the continued military control of millions of Palestinians," the left-wing group Peace Now said in November. "If the government really wants to eliminate BDS—then it will end the occupation."
UPDATE: 3:26 P.M.: This article was updated with Airbnb's subsequent statement that reports of it suspending its policy were not accurate.
UPDATE: 3:34 P.M.: This article was updated with a statement to the Washington Free Beacon calling the initial statement by the company an error.
UPDTE: 4:09 P.M.: This article was updated with more information about the initial statement.