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 “The West Bank is the first and only region from which Airbnb has so far withdrawn under a revised set of guidelines, although it previously removed listings in Crimea due to international sanctions.”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.