Airbnb Plans To Remove Listings In Israeli Settlements

Property-renting company Airbnb says it plans to remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin described it as a “disgraceful surrender,” while senior Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat called it an “initial positive step.”

Broadly, settlements are viewed as an obstacle to peace by Palestinians and the international community, and the U.N. Human Rights Council and the U.N. Security Council have said settlements on land captured by Israel are illegal under international law.

Airbnb said in a statement that its decision impacts about 200 Airbnb listings. It said it had previously allowed listings in Israeli settlements in the West Bank “because we believe that people-to-people travel has considerable value,” adding that it had made the latest decision after weighing the issue over time and speaking to experts.

“We concluded that we should remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians,” the company said. “We know that people will disagree with this decision and appreciate their perspective.”

As of Monday afternoon, listings within settlements still appear to be up on the site. The company told NPR’s Daniel Estrin that it plans to remove them “in the days ahead.”

Levin has stated that the Ministry of Tourism is taking action to “limit the company’s activity throughout the country.” And Gilad Erdan, the minister of strategic affairs, is encouraging people affected by the new policy to file lawsuits against Airbnb.

This comes after pressure from rights groups. Human Rights Watch says it has been urging Airbnb to leave the controversial region for two years.

“In essence they are helping to broker rentals on land stolen from Palestinians, for which those Palestinians themselves … are barred from entering,” Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director of Human Rights Watch, tells Estrin. The organization is preparing to release a report on the issue Tuesday, titled “Bed and Breakfast on Stolen Land.”

Airbnb made the announcement in a post titled “Listings in Disputed Regions.” It did not specify any policy changes in other disputed areas but said that each situation should be evaluated with a “case-by-case approach.”

Israelis say they feel singled out, while there are other conflicts going on that haven’t received as much international scrutiny. “The senior management of Airbnb will have to explain why they specifically, and uniquely, chose to implement this political and discriminatory decision in the case of citizens of the state of Israel,” said Erdan.

Eliana Passentin, an Israeli citizen who lives in the settlement of Eli in the West Bank, tells Estrin that she has rented her home several times to tourists. She criticized Airbnb’s decision.

“It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever,” said Passentin. “They’ve become political. … Instead of building bridges they are building fences.”

Businesses with ties to Israeli settlements are coming under increasing scrutiny from the United Nations. A report earlier this year from the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights compiled a list of about 200 companies that do business with settlements; as Estrin reported at the time, the U.S. and Israel urged the U.N. not to publish that list.

North Korea Denuclearization Plan Has Gone Nowhere Since Trump-Kim Summit

After meeting with North Korea’s leader Kim Jong Un in Singapore this past June, President Trump was effusive.

“Our conversation was open, honest, direct and very, very productive,” he said. “We produced something that is beautiful.”

But after five months of canceled meetings and muted statements of dissatisfaction by both countries, experts say there is no sign of progress toward the Singapore goal of so-called “denuclearization” of the North.

“I think right now, we are absolutely stuck,” says Sue Mi Terry, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Terry and others trace the source of the problem to the “beautiful” document signed in June by Trump and Kim. Known as the Singapore Declaration, it laid out, in the broadest terms, how the U.S. and North Korea could learn to get along.

In just over 400 words, it says that the U.S. will normalize relations with North Korea in exchange for “denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.” But it does not specify a process or even an order in which these goals would occur.

Since the summit, North Korea has said normalization must start before denuclearization, while the U.S. maintains that the North must hand over its nuclear weapons before any normalization can begin.

“We are asking North Korea to move first, and North Korea is asking the United States to take the next step,” Terry says.

As a result, the situation looks very similar to how it did in June.

Last week, Terry’s colleagues published satellite photos showing an operating North Korean missile base near the South Korean border. The U.S. wants North Korea to declare such bases, but the North has so far refused to do so.

Meanwhile, Kim has urged the U.S. to drop sanctions ahead of denuclearization activities, but the U.S. refuses to budge.

“We’re at an impasse where we’re not going to give North Korea what they want, and the North Koreans are not giving us what we want,” says Jung Pak, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution. Each week that passes without progress “really lays bare the anemic nature” of the Singapore Declaration, she says.

“We’re at a point where we have, in my opinion, almost an historic opportunity for a breakthrough in North Korea and we’re sitting around twiddling our thumbs,” says Sig Hecker, a physicist at Stanford University who has made several trips to some of North Korea’s most sensitive nuclear facilities. He says the opportunity exists because Kim wants economic development, and Trump wants a big foreign policy win.

Hecker believes that the administration’s all-or-nothing approach to dismantling the North’s nuclear weapons infrastructure is unrealistic and the Singapore summit must be followed by “dogged diplomacy.” Full denuclearization might take a decade or so.

“It’s going to take a lot of trust-building and a lot of individual actions on each side to get there,” he says.

“I think what we need to do is try to get things on paper in greater detail,” says Bruce Klingner, a senior research fellow with the conservative Heritage Foundation.

What’s needed to follow the Singapore Declaration, he says, is a document more like the old arms control agreements between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. Those treaties went on for tens of pages and laid out clear rules for the Cold War adversaries.

“We didn’t like [the Soviets], we didn’t trust them, but by having very extensive carefully delineated text, we could move forward on capping and thinning down weapons programs,” he says.

Shouting ‘Mexico First,’ Hundreds In Tijuana March Against Migrant Caravan

The message for the migrant caravan was clear from marchers on Sunday in Tijuana, Mexico: We don’t want you here.

“We want the caravan to go; they are invading us,” said Patricia Reyes, a 62-year-old protester, hiding from the sun under an umbrella. “They should have come into Mexico correctly, legally, but they came in like animals.”

LATIN AMERICA

Mexican Protesters In Tijuana Demand Caravan Migrants Be Deported
A few hundred Tijuanenses gathered in the city’s high-end Rio area to protest the groups migrating from Central American countries.

Demonstrators held signs reading “No illegals,” “No to the invasion” and “Mexico First.” Many wore the country’s red, white and green national soccer jersey and vigorously waved Mexican flags. The crowd often slipped into chants of “Ti-jua-na!” and “Me-xi-co!” They sang the national anthem several times.

The march is a foreboding sign for the migrants who have formed caravans to cross Mexico in hopes of reaching the United States. Many, but not all, of the migrants have come to Tijuana, which borders San Diego, to request asylum in the U.S. They come primarily from Honduras, though some are from other Central American countries. A number of the asylum-seekers say they can’t return home after receiving threats from street gangs such as MS-13 and the 18th Street gang, as well as threats from government figures in their countries.

But that process could take months, and the Trump administration is working to block them from entering with new rules to limit asylum.

While the protesters numbered only a few hundred, in a city of more than 1.6 million, vitriol against the migrants has spread across social media in Tijuana in recent days.

“They should create concentration and deportation camps with federal funds,” wrote one commenter on the Facebook page organizing the march.

“Tijuana is a place that welcomes anyone, but you must have papers, you must identify yourself,” demonstrator Magdalena Baltazar said on Sunday, as she waved a Mexican flag and marched through the city. “We work hard here. We don’t get handouts. The government shouldn’t be giving things to migrants when plenty of Mexicans are in a difficult position.”

Most of the protesters said the migrants should be detained and deported.

The marchers had intended to head to the mayor’s office to demand action but, as police cars raced ahead to block intersections, many protesters veered off, heading toward a shelter where more than 2,500 migrants are staying, according to Tijuana city officials.

“Say that to my face,” a protester yelled back.

A few blocks ahead, a family stood on a balcony and shouted at the protesters.

“This is not what Tijuana is like!” cried an elderly woman. “All migrants are welcome here!”

A block away from the shelter, local police in riot gear set up a barricade. Some marchers yelled, shoved and threw water at the officers, but they could not advance.