Sun, 26 May 2019

Tel Aviv coastline with Israel Flag, Israel (Photo: iStock)

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Israel said Tuesday it would slap high taxes on vacation rental company Airbnb and encourage legal steps against the site over its decision to ban listings from West Bank settlements.

The threats of sanctions ramp up Israel's fight against a global movement advocating for boycotts over the country's treatment of the Palestinians. The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign, also known as BDS, has claimed a number of successes in recent years, leading Israel to identify it as a major threat.

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Human Rights Watch, along with Palestinian officials and other rights groups, have for years pressured Airbnb to pull out of Israeli-occupied territory.

Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat called Airbnb's decision an "initial positive step," and urged the company to extend its decision to Israeli listings in east Jerusalem. The BDS movement echoed that sentiment in a statement on its website.

For settler hosts, who see their homes as an integral part of Israel, the decision triggered outrage and confusion.

Tsofiya Jacob has rented out her apartment in the Kfar Adumim settlement using Airbnb for the past year and a half to a regular rotation of European and American tourists. She advertises her rental on Airbnb as an "escape from daily tumult" in Israel, and doesn't mention that the property, complete with a Jacuzzi and desert views, is located in the West Bank.

"I see this (community) as part of home, part of Israel," Jacob said. "I understand the sensitivities but despite that, in my opinion, we are here."

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