West Hollywood City Council Asked to Condemn Airbnb’s Ban on Rentals in Israeli Communities in the West Bank

The West Hollywood City Council has another Israel-Palestine item on its agenda.

City council members Lindsey Horvath and Lauren Meister will ask their fellow council members on Monday to endorse their proposal that the city condemn a decision by Airbnb to remove listings of rentals in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

That proposal comes on the heels of a city decision to postpone the Dec. 12 screening of a documentary about the formation of Israel in 1948 and its impact on the Palestinian community. That documentary, “1948: Creation and Catastrophe,” was to have been screened as part of the city’s city’s Human Rights Speakers Series. It was to have been followed by a panel discussion including Andy Trimlett and Ahlam Muhtaseb, co-producers and co-directors of the documentary.

A memo to the city council criticizes Airbnb for focusing on Israel when there are other countries with controversial settlements such as those in Tibet and Northern Cyprus. “Many have called Airbnb hypocritical as these settlements experience just as much, if not more, violence than the West Bank,” says the memo. “The West Bank is the first and only region from which Airbnb has so far withdrawn under a revised set of guidelines, although it previously removed listings in Crimea due to international sanctions.”

The international community has largely agreed that the existence of Israeli settlements in the West Bank is in violation of international law. The Fourth Geneva Convention includes statements such as “the Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” The United Nations Security Council has called on Israel to stop transferring its people into Palestinian territory and the International Court of Justice has ruled that Israel is in breach of international law by establishing settlements in occupied Palestinian territory.

Horvath’s request to postpone the screening of the “1948” documentary won the support of Rabbi Denise Eger of Congregation Kol Ami, an LGBT Jewish congregation in West Hollywood. “We don’t need to become a refuge for hatred,” Horvath said at the Dec. 3 city council meeting.

However the decision to postpone the film drew criticism from some, including Sandy Tolan, a professor at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at USC. Tolan, in an op-ed published in WEHOville, criticized the City of West Hollywood for “playing censor” by postponing the screening.

The memo accompanying the proposed condemnation of Airbnb’s action notes that “West Hollywood has long been on record in opposition to the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement, adopting an ordinance in 1994 establishing that the city shall not enter into a contract for any purpose with a person or business that complies with the boycott of Israel and a resolution in 2016 in support of AB 2844 (Bloom) which prohibits a California public entity from contracting with a company that is participating in a boycott of Israel…”

Palestinian organizations in 2005 called for an international economic campaign against Israel that now is referred to as Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS). Boycotting and divesting from investments in companies doing business with Israel and particularly in Israelis settlements in Palestine has won the support of some major religious organizations such as the Church of England and the Presbyterian Church of the United States, which specifically supported divestment from companies such as Caterpillar, Hewlett-Packard and Motorola Solutions. Others have refused to sign on to the BDS movement.

The boycott movement has gained significant support among college student organizations and other progressive groups such as M.E.Ch.A. (Movamaento Estudaantal Chacana de Aztlan), which bills itself as the largest association of Latino young people in the United States.

The city council will meet at 6:30 p.m. on Monday at the City Council Chambers, 625 N. San Vicente Blvd., south of Santa Monica. Parking is free in the five-story structure behind the Council Chambers with a ticket validated at the meeting.

  1. For those interested in having your voice heard and refusing to accept this baseless attempt at censoring free speech, there are two things you can do:

    1) Message the West Hollywood city council directly via their Facebook account: https://www.facebook.com/wehocity/

    2) Show up to the city council meeting this upcoming Monday, where they will be discussing the Airbnb proposal along with other many important issues. As individuals, all we can do as talk. However, acting together is the way to pressuring the council to do the right thing! The link below provides the meeting date and time, along with an agenda:

  2. As the person who introduced Holocaust studies to my 7th grade English students in 1992 in a small central NY state school, I strongly condemn this action. Since Ariel Sharon went to the Temple Mount in September of 2000 (NYT 9/29/2000) to assert Jewish claims there, despite signs of impending violence if he did, Israel has degenerated. The Israelis have provoked at every turn. As a result, I stopped teaching that course of study a few years after when it became clear that Israel was no longer any different from the formerly apartheid South Africa. Don’t move forward on this–we have enough to straighten out on our own territory, and I mean WeHo!

    1. Interesting that you bring up Ariel Sharon. On 9/11 I was in Cold Spring and later in the day Rhinebeck, N.Y. Sharon was interviewed on the evening news before going to dinner and made a very curious comment when asked for his reaction. “Now you know what we experience and have to live with every day in Israel”, not how tragic for the US or offering any sign of compassion, only “now you know what we experience and have to live with every day in Israel”. We discussed this later at dinner. In the following days we attended a special service at St. James, Franklin Roosevelt’s church in Hyde Park and later were invited to lunch by some long time members of the congregation who lived on the property adjacent to the Vanderbilt place. Interestingly enough they heard the same Sharon comment and were perplexed about it. NO answers only further questions and at best, we decided it was an unnecessarily provocative remark.

  3. This is outrageous.

    Proposing condemning AirBNB for refusing to host listings that are made possible by a flagrant violation of the Geneva Convention?! The World Court has held that settlements are illegal. And we, as Americans, have a particular obligation to oppose these crimes that are enabled by our country’s UN Security Council veto and our tax dollars.

    I am ashamed and so very disappointed in those council members.

  4. Totally with LADoug, this is a complete waste of time and and resources. There are numerous local issues, including local AirBnB related issues that could be addressed by the council.

    How about they address the use of rent stabilized units as AirBnB rentals, reducing the number of affordable places to live!

  5. Dear City Council,

    Your roll and jurisdiction is to the city of West Hollywood. You have many issues to focus upon which affect the local citizens and local business. Stop wasting our time on issues which yield ZERO results, and areas you have ZERO influence.

    International Humanitarian and Human Rights issues are painful to witness, but this is not your role, professionally.

    When is the last time each of the council members walked the streets on SMB or Sunset and count the empty store fronts, witness the number of homeless, experience the parks and bus stops where the homeless live, and count the number of time you cringe when you see tourist with young kids walking near the homeless.

    Do you find the sidewalks to be clean? The sidewalks of Manhattan are spotless in comparison.

    Experience the lack of traffic flow of these main streets, witness the number of bicyclist, skateboarders, and e-scooters navigating these streets. Oh yea, rent one of your green bikes.

    The tasks are many and endless – stay focused locally

  6. If the Palestinian Authority is as effective as City of West Hollywood has been in enforcing bans on Air BnB, I don’t thing Air BnB will be in any trouble on the West Bank.

  7. But it is ok for Israel to advise our US. Police Departments so we can have a more militaristic environment.

    Perhaps it’s time to reexamine the 1994 Weho Ordinance and the 2016 AB 2844.

    Then we might reexamine the Chicken & Egg Theory.

    Ladies, you are both to be respected on a variety of issues but on this one you may well be over your heads.

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