Open Letter to Airbnb CEO

November 21, 2018


ATT: Brian Chesky, CEO, Airbnb

Dear Mr. Chesky:

It is unclear what drove you to issue a press release specifically targeting Jewish neighbourhoods. In a statement, you “concluded that we should remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.”

We can dispute whether Jewish neighbourhoods are really at the core of the Middle East conflict: Might it be Hamas firing rockets into Israel and threatening to wipe out just over six million Jews? Or the antisemitic incitement by the Palestinian Authority on television and in school books? Or does it have anything to do with the blowing up of buses or ramming cars into people? Or at the very least, is it the corruption and the rejection of any peace overtures by Israel?

In your press release, do you mean that 200 listings in Jewish neighbourhoods in disputed areas are actually in the way of peace?

In my view, what is truly in the way of peace is this insidious campaign targeting Jewish people wherever they reside. Historically, most campaigns against Jews – when they could not succeed with violence at first – began with economic boycotts. Hitler did it in 1933 with economic and social boycotts of Jews – targeting their places of business especially, but not exclusively.

And so, instead of allowing freedom of business to flow in order to bring people together and allow them to carry forth their livelihood, companies like yours are probably finding themselves having to bow down to the boycott campaigns targeting Jewish people once again. Canada’s prime minister called these boycotts antisemitic just a couple of weeks ago during his apology for the St. Louis – the ship full of Jews that was turned away from Canada’s shores to return back to Europe where many perished in the Holocaust.

The St. Louis is today a metaphor of this callous and institutionalized antisemitism we are once again witnessing. The Jewish neighbourhoods being targeted by mega corporations are largely made up of struggling families who are just trying to make ends meet and live their lives. While companies like yours are trying to make them feel like they are adrift, they stand strong and resolute knowing they are backed by the free and democratic State of Israel and supported by millions of friends around the world.

In the modern world, it’s incomprehensible to understand how a company that might maintain listings in many “disputed” areas around the globe can set forth a policy targeting Jewish neighbourhoods. A quick search of your website shows numerous possible questionable listings – for example, on Cyprus, an island disputed by both Turkey and Greece (and the island itself). You can also rent an apartment in Tibet, Taiwan, Kashmir and even in Caledonia, Ontario – the site of land disputed between the provincial government and First Nations.

Israel's Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan has called for a boycott of your company, stating, “All those who support Israel and oppose discriminatory boycotts should cease using Airbnb and turn to other services.” Erdan said the matter would be referred also to possible legal action on behalf of US laws against boycotting Israel, stating, “This decision is appalling in its hypocrisy, outrageous in its discrimination and counterproductive in its effects.”

And surely, of the 191 countries your press release says your company serves, it would probably mean the company is also operating in some of the most unsavory places in the world with questionable human rights records. If one was to dig further, cross-reference and compare, surely this too might prove problematic, even embarrassing, for your company.

Your decision will not change our perspective or bring us down. From a long history of tradition, we will continue countering this culture of aggression toward our community by extending our hands in peace as we have always done. Rather than circle our wagons, we will continue to engage the world and help those in need; we will provide economic and cultural growth opportunity for everyone through science, medicine and the arts. We will send our international rescue and medical teams to the other side of the planet and we will strengthen our belief and resolve that together humanity is stronger. This boycott will not lessen our spirit; it will serve to strengthen our resolve to make the world a better place.

I hope and recommend you will rescind your decision on the merits of these observations. It would be the right thing to do.

Avi Benlolo
President & CEO, Canadian FSWC

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