Airbnb, The Quakers and BDS

This Monday, 19th November 2018, UK Quakers announced their support for BDS (1). On the same day, Airbnb did the same (2).

Both organisations are focusing on profits made in the disputed areas, but I think the division is blurred and therefore impossible and unrealistic. Guessing I’m not the only person whose inbox is filling up with different points of view, I’m sharing the following message that came in overnight from a cousin in the USA, followed by my response.

From my cousin:

‘Just my take, but boycotting West Bank businesses is different from boycotting Israel generally’.

My reply:

Hi dear cousin,

We have discussed your position about BDS and the disputed areas before but this isn’t about you, who are a Zionist and love Israel. I suggest you may wish to think twice before comparing your own nuanced position with airbnb, the Quakers or other BDS supporting organisations.

Each of them is in their own way biased, ignorant and antisemitic. I will explain why below. Cousin, for clarity, I’m sure you know that I consider your position principled and honourable even though I disagree with it.

From being friends, in both senses of the word, the Quakers seem to have lost their way towards the Jews and Israel. I find it deeply but unsurprisingly disappointing that at this time of increasing antisemitism they have not considered what a blow Monday’s news was for British Jews. Their journey from friends to not friends is not, despite their self-referential rationale, even handed, and has been documented elsewhere. (3). Like all BDS movements it is irrelevant to Israel but affects the overwhelming majority of British Jews who believe in the right of Israel to exist. (4)

In the case of airbnb I am particularly clear that, despite their fine sounding words, they are driven by muddle and commercial considerations. They have their own questionable morals to consider, especially about how they are causing local housing crises, together with taxation issues (5 & 6). This boycott provides them with a useful deflection to get people back on side when they would do well to put their own house in order first.

Since this news was posted I’ve discovered that airbnb have listings in a cross section of places under occupation, such as Northern Cyprus, Ukraine, Georgia, Crimea, Chechnya and Tibet. In addition they list accommodation in countries that are egregious abusers of human rights, such as Iran, Syria, Gaza and Venezuela.

Many authentic modern states or areas are currently suffering occupation. Any one of us over the age of 50 remembers that the area currently identified as “Palestine” has never existed. When I was growing up it was called Jordan, and since I’m sticking to modern times I won’t go beyond that.

The only similarity between Israel and these other places is that they are called ‘occupations’. Whatever their protestations, not one of the other occupying states, for instance China, Russia or Turkey, would have their security critically threatened if they withdrew. Some of these occupying states are genocidal.

My own position is that I would love for Israel not to be in these disputed areas but only a safe and secure peace treaty can bring this about.

I am immersed in the social media accounts of those in the UK and the USA who call for BDS. Believe me they are not driven by a wish for peace or love of Israel; instead they seek its destruction. There may be good people but they are outnumbered by those who hate us.

Show me a Zionist outside Israel and the vast majority believe in human rights for Palestinians.

Conversely, show me a group of people who call themselves pro Palestine and I can assure you that they don’t give a fig for the human rights of Israelis. Their international rallying call says it all: “From the river to the sea, Palestine shall be free.”

Here as promised earlier is my reason for calling the boycotting resolutions of Airbnb and the Quakers antisemitic.

Like most proponents of BDS they are demonstrating double standards by singling out Israel. Here is an extract from the International Holocaust Remembrance Association’s working definition of antisemitism, now widely and internationally accepted:

1. “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.

2. Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation”

In the light of this clear breach of IHRA I hope that both these organisations will examine their actions and their consciences and offer a clear retraction of their position.


About the Author
Judith Ornstein is UK based and a passionate supporter of the arts, who combats the cultural boycott of Israel. She is the instigator of the Whitewashed Project, fighting Labour's problems with Jews. The book, the film, and valuable links can be found at
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