Florida governor says state will sanction Airbnb for delisting Jewish settlements

Marcy Oster

(JTA) — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said his state would take action against Airbnb for its decision to remove listings of rooms and homes for rent in West Bank Jewish settlements.

Airbnb announced in November 2018 that it would remove the listings of some 200 apartments and homes for rent in Jewish settlements in the West Bank, but not in Palestinian communities, and said that it consulted with experts to learn about the historical disputes in the region in order to make a decision about whether it should be doing business in “the occupied territories.”

DeSantis, Florida’s newly sworn in Republican governor, said on Tuesday that the state would suspend the use of Airbnb for state-paid travel, and would consider preventing the state’s pension fund from investing in Airbnb. The company is not currently publicly traded but reportedly is planning to go public as early as June 2019, or at least by 2020, according to trade publications.

“We have a moral obligation to oppose the Airbnb policy; it does target Jews specifically,” said DeSantis.

DeSantis’ announcement is part of a steady campaign to curry favor with the state’s large Jewish community. On Monday he announced a Jewish judge as his selection to sit on the State’s Supreme Court during a news conference at a local Miami Jewish day school, where he also announced that he would travel with a state delegation to Israel in May. He recently announced more money to pay for security at Florida Jewish schools.

Airbnb operates in 191 countries and regions and more than 81,000 cities. A brief check on its website on Wednesday shows that rentals in West Bank Jewish settlements remain listed.

Israeli’s Minister of Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan praised DeSantis’ announcement, calling it “an important decision that will embolden the fight against anti-Semitic boycott organizations. We will continue to act in all possible ways to nullify the bigoted decision discriminating against citizens of the State of Israel and harming them financially because of where they live.”

Erdan, who heads a committee of Israeli government ministers charged with countering the Airbnb decision, last month sent letters to five governors in the United States, including DeSantis, urging them to express their opposition to the Airbnb decision and to take economic measures against the company.

The Christians United for Israel, or CUFI, Action Fund on Tuesday issued a statement supporting DeSantis’ announcement, saying in a statement that: “State and local governments should continue to take decisive measures to limit Airbnb’s ability to operate unless and until this bigoted policy is reversed.”