DeSantis Threatens Airbnb with Sanctions over Israeli Settlement Boycott

Categories: US-Israel Relationship

TEL AVIV – Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Tuesday ordered state officials to boycott Airbnb when conducting state business and said he would make the vacation rental giant “feel the heat” unless it walks back its decision banning rentals in Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

“We have a moral obligation to oppose the Airbnb policy; it does target Jews specifically,” said DeSantis, a pro-Israel Republican. “Airbnb claims it’s a company of inclusion and yet this policy only affects Jews who have homes on the West Bank. It doesn’t appear to apply to anyone else on the face of the earth.”

In November, Airbnb announced that it would remove 200 listings in Israeli settlements. The announcement came a day before a report by Human Rights Watch was due to be released slamming Airbnb for supporting settlements.

Minister of Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan on Wednesday praised DeSantis’ call for state sanctions.

“This is an important decision that will embolden the fight against anti-Semitic boycott organizations,” he said. “We will continue to act in all possible ways to nullify the bigoted decision discriminating against citizens of the State of Israel and harming them financially because of where they live.”

Last Wednesday, Erdan warned that Israel may take legal action against Airbnb over its discriminatory policy.

DeSantis said his state would bar using Airbnb for state-paid travel as well as consider stopping the state’s pension fund from investing in the company were it to become publicly traded.

“If we can’t make them see the light, make them feel the heat,” he said.

DeSantis, who is making his first trip abroad to Israel in May, has pledged at least $2 million in state money to Jewish schools for security purposes.

Airbnb spokesman Ben Breit responded to DeSantis’ remarks by saying the company remains “deeply committed to our more than 20,000 hosts in Israel.” He added that Airbnb does not support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

The Florida chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations expressed its support of Airbnb’s new policy and slammed DeSantis’ announcement.

“Governor DeSantis should abstain from pushing his free-speech crackdown and instead should focus on protecting all Americans and American corporations from being punished by state legislation seeking to implement unconstitutional state-sponsored boycotts,” said its spokesman, Wilfredo Ruiz.

Meanwhile, the Israeli-American Coalition for Action, a non-partisan advocacy group for Israeli-American relations, thanked DeSantis for his support.

“We thank Gov. DeSantis for his strong leadership in opposing the bigotry and antisemitism of the BDS Movement. He has positioned Florida as a leader, at a time when many states around the country have begun the process of evaluating Airbnb’s discriminatory new policy,” the group’s chairman, Shawn Evenhaim, said.

The CUFI Action Fund,  the public policy arm of the pro-Israel group, Christians United for Israel, also expressed support for DeSantis’ announcement.

Read More: Breitbart