Israel

Florida Sanctions Airbnb for Removing West Bank Properties

Gov. Ron DeSantis essentially accused the company of taking part in a boycott of Israel. It has 20,000 properties in the country.

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Ron Sachs/CNP/AdMedia/Newscom

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis voted last week to place economic sanctions on Airbnb after the company stopped listing properties in the West Bank, which was perceived by some as a pro-Palestine stance. DeSantis, working with other state officials, added Airbnb to a list of "scrutinized companies," which bars state investment in companies that boycott Israel.*

"It was a dumb policy," said DeSantis. "I think they made a mistake. Sometimes you have to look in the mirror and admit you made a mistake and move on."

But it would seem the company isn't necessarily pro-Palestine—or at least isn't anti-Israel. A quick search on their website returns listings for Israeli properties all across the country: Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, Haifa, Yafo, and more.

"There are over 20,000 Airbnb hosts in Israel who open their doors and showcase the best of Israeli hospitality to guests from around the world, which boosts local families, businesses and communities," wrote Robert Chestnut, Airbnb's general counsel, in a letter to the State Board of Administration. "Our community of hosts in Israel has already welcomed more than 1 million guests and we will continue to invest in Israel."

Airbnb says it removed its West Bank properties in November because both Israel and Palestine claim ownership over the contested area. It's the same reason the company doesn't have a presence in Crimea, which is disputed territory between Ukraine and Russia.

Even if Airbnb did harbor some internal anti-Israel sentiment, it would seem fairly obvious that it is not part of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, an effort to hold the country accountable for mistreating Palestinians. But why should it matter if they're BDSers in the first place? Businesses often vote with their dollars, investing in causes that resonate with them and snubbing those that don't. Consumers do the same. BDS, however, strikes a chord with many lawmakers nationwide.

Half of all states have passed laws that prohibit public agencies from doing business with companies or individuals who openly associate with BDS. What's more, the Senate approved a measure this week—pushed by Sen. Marco Rubio (R–Fl.)—that would facilitate anti-BDS laws at the state level by removing the threat of federal pre-emption. The bill, which now heads to the House, is largely supported by Republicans but has divided top Democrats.

"While I do not support the BDS movement, we must defend every American's constitutional right to engage in political activity," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) said in a statement last week. "It is clear to me that this bill would violate Americans' First Amendment rights."

Whether the boycott is actually effective is another question entirely—its impact is likely negligible. But that makes the national crackdown all the more puzzling, as it draws more attention to BDS.

In any case, Gov. DeSantis has made promises to live up to after wooing the Jewish community during his campaign. "If we're not the most pro-Israel state in the country, we will be on January 8," he said at the Israeli American Council National Conference, referencing his inauguration date. But the governor also promised to defend First Amendment rights, which should apply across the board—regardless of political persuasion.

*CLARIFICATION: This post has been updated to more clearly describe the sanctions imposed by the state of Florida.

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28 responses to “Florida Sanctions Airbnb for Removing West Bank Properties

  1. Government hates AirBnB and some government loves AirBnB.

    Government definitely wants to control AirBnB depending on where the campaign donations are coming from.

  2. I do not see how the state can sanction people for refusing to do business with a particular nation. I think BDS is bullshit and the people who run it a mix of Anti Semites and crazies. But, no one is obligated to do business with Isreal. And if the government can force them to do business with Isreal they can force everyone to do business with countries or people they don’t like.

    1. I couldn’t find a discussion in the article of what kind of “sanctions” Santis is imposing – denial of govt contracts would be one thing, but what kind of govt contracts would Air BnB want? Or are the “sanctions” simply like the “sanctions” against the Christian bakers, trying to run their businesses and dictate what they’ll do for particular customers?

      And from the post it doesn’t seem like Air BnB is some kind of BDS company, it’s simply staying out of disputed territory without ruling on the rights and wrongs of the territorial disputes in question. BDS would mean staying out of Israel altogether.

      1. Oh, I see: “added Airbnb to a list of “scrutinized companies,” which bars state investment in companies that boycott Israel” – well, that isn’t as bad as generic “sanctions,” but can we be sure they’re singling out Israel as opposed to boycotting *all* disputed territories on the globe?

    2. If the government can force people to buy health insurance, why can’t it force people to do business with Israel?

      Of course, the government isn’t forcing anyone to do business with Israel. The government as procurer of services can choose who it does business with. Or is it your view that the government must do business with avowed Nazis and white supremacists as long as they provide the lowest bid?

      1. The government cannot discriinate against people for the lawful exercise of their constiutional rights. The government could not for example refuse to do business with anyone who donated to Republicans or expressed views the government disapproved of.

        So the question here is whether refusing to do business with a foreign country is the exercise of a constitutionally protected right. And I think it very clearly is. My refusal to do business with Isreal is me exercising my freedom of assocaition and probably my First Amendment Rights if I choose to make my refusal a public statement. The government denying me the ability to do business with it because of that is no different than it declining to do business with Republicans or with people who make obscene art or give to charities or causes the government doesn’t like.

    3. Cake.
      Broccoli.
      Penaltax.

      1. Even Roberts agreed that the government couldn’t penalize you for refusing to associate. He just pretended that the penalty was really a tax and not a punishment.

        1. Lots of tax deductions are really punishments for those who don’t fulfill the requirement. I’m punished every year for not having children, for example.

    4. And if the government can force them to do business with Isreal they can force everyone to do business with countries or people they don’t like.

      They’ve been in that business since 1964. That principle has long been established. They’ve just found a new way to apply it.

      1. No it hasn’t. That only applies to the refusal to do business with a few protected classes. IS Isreal a protected class? Not last I looked.

        1. Half of all states have passed laws that prohibit public agencies from doing business with companies or individuals who openly associate with BDS.

          Sure looks that way to me.

          The principle established is that government has the authority to create special classes. And to the best of my knowledge, there’s no limits on what kind of classes it can create. So it does.

          1. I think those laws are unconstitutional.

  3. DeSantis, working with other state officials, added Airbnb to a list of “scrutinized companies,” which bars state investment in companies that boycott Israel.*

    This is still a Libertarian Website, right? We’re not actually in favor of the government investing in companies, are we?

    1. I would hope not. But if the government does, it can’t discriminate against companies because of their exercise of their constitutionally protected rights.

  4. I have to ask, are you Jewish? Because it’s usually non Jews who don’t seem to understand what’s so awful about BDS. We’re not just talking about restricting speech. I want to restrict their ability to act politically the same way I would want to restrict the right of Nazis to speak and organize in 1934. BDS isn’t trying to gather attention or financially impact Israeli organizations. All they’re trying to do is poison the well. It’s basically circular reasoning. By successfully pressuring someone into taking anti-Israeli policy positions, they “prove” their point. After all, if Israel wasn’t worth boycotting, why would anyone acquiesce to pressure?

    The West Bank is just a political term; there is no such thing. Jerusalem is Jewish and must remain so. Palestine is the same way. It isn’t a nation nor a people, only a foreign label (and an extremely offensive one at that) designed by the Romans to destroy our historical connection to Israel. The past 70 years have proven that for the benefit of all, Israel is best left to us. As much as the idea of an ethnostate may upset libertarians, the fact remains that if we want to have a Jewish state with Jewish law, that isn’t possible without a large majority Jewish population. That’s why the one-state solution was abandoned and the current situation looks like conquest; it cannot be any other way. Israel cannot become less Jewish and we cannot in good faith aid the creation of a state that seeks to destroy us.

    1. if we want to have a Jewish state with Jewish law, that isn’t possible without a large majority Jewish population

      This is completely wrong. I am Jewish and the Torah commands us:

      Proclaim liberty throughout the land and to ALL the inhabitants thereof.

      And the Torah commands us:

      You shall have the same law for the stranger AS FOR YOURSELF.

      Yes Israel must remain Jewish. That means: FREEDOM and EQUAL RIGHTS. #bds #river2sea #proclaimliberty

      1. You must be trolling if you think the Torah says anything about citizenship and the democratic process. It’s simply a matter of fact that if we have democratic elections and the population is 50%), Jewish law will be overturned. Why would non-Jews uphold Jewish law?

        1. the fact remains that if we want to have a Jewish state with Jewish law, that isn’t possible without a large majority Jewish population

          You must be trolling (or a Kabbalaist or Haredi) if you insist on Jewish law and then claim that the Torah has nothing to say about it.

    2. if we want to have a Jewish state with Jewish law

      Why would “we” want anything of the sort?

  5. Only one Republican senator, Rand Paul of Kentucky, joined Democrats opposing the law by warning that it harms free speech.

    You missed the best part! Rand Paul gave a blistering denunciation of the law. #istandwithrand

  6. I believe any business should be able to choice who they do and do not do business with and the government should not stop that. Do not get me wrong with that statement. I firmly believe Israel is the rightful country for the Jewish population has been there far longer than any other claiming the territory.

    1. Plus, a one-sided boycott of Israel, when her enemies are *way* worse, is messed up.

      To say this I don’t have to endorse everything Israel does, I only have to suggest that they’re not even close to being uniquely evil in the region.

    2. The government believes it can tell people to do business with those they would rather not. And it has armed enforcers, the power of confiscation plus prisons for those who disagree.

    3. Israel is the rightful country for the Jewish population

      So they should all move there to be rightful?

  7. If they were anti-Israel, wouldn’t they remove their services from Israel entirely and not just the disputed West Bank?

  8. I don’t think the government should tell people who they have to do business with, but ever since the 1960’s we’ve outlawed boycotting a nationality and fairness dictates applying the same logic to people who boycott Israel. The boycott of South Africa was socially acceptable, because most Americans hadn’t fully grokked the implications of anti-discrimination policies back then.

    Consider the argument for boycotting Mexico. Mexico treats people from Central America so badly that they walk all the way through Mexico to get into the USA illegally and apply for refugee status here instead of applying for refugee status in Mexico. However, no one would approve of boycotting Mexico until it accepts more Central American refugees as a way to stand up for people from Central America.

  9. This is just a bludgeon to continue to beat AirBNB with. They give no actual fucks about this stated reason for the beating.

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