Airbnb is officially on Texas' list. Not for being a menace to apartment dwellers everywhere or avoiding hotel occupancy taxes, or anything like that. Instead, Airbnb, a home-sharing app that offers an alternative to traditional hotels, is in trouble with the state because it refuses to list Israeli-owned rentals in Israel's West Bank.
In doing so, Airbnb has, according to Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar, run afoul of Texas' 2-year-old anti-boycott divest sanctions law. The boycott, divestment and sanctions movement calls for a boycott of and divestment from Israel, along with sanctions to protest the country's continued occupation of Palestinian territories and treatment of Palestinian Israelis.
Texas' law is intended to show the state's support of Israel, one of its largest trading partners, by requiring that state contracts not be given to any company participating in or supporting the BDS movement. Companies that make Hegar's list, as Airbnb did Friday, have 90 days to prove to the state that they do not support BDS against Israel.
Airbnb repudiated BDS in a statement to Haaretz.
“We unequivocally reject and oppose the BDS movement and are disappointed by the [Texas] decision,” the statement said. "There are over 20,000 Airbnb hosts in Israel who open their doors and showcase the best of Israeli hospitality to guests from around the world, which boosts local families, businesses and communities.”
The author of Texas' anti-BDS law, state Rep. Phil King, praised Hegar for maintaining Texas' relationship with Israel.
“We are grateful to Comptroller Glenn Hegar and his staff for their good work in carefully scrutinizing Airbnb’s business practices. This enforcement action is an important step in defending Texas’ economy from anti-Semitic discrimination," King said.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon said Texas should be an example for governments around the world.
“We welcome this decision very much and we hope that it will be emulated by other states and other countries in the world,” Nahshon said, according to Haaretz.
Whether Airbnb assures Texas of its being pro-Israel in the next three months or not, there's a good chance its black sheep status with the state won't last long. Bahia Amawi, a former speech pathologist with Pflugerville ISD, recently sued the state over the law after she was fired from her job for supporting BDS. Amawi and free-speech rights groups believe the law amounts to unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.
“It's against freedom of speech. It's against the right to protest and against the Constitution,” Amawi told the Observer last year. “It’s a violation of my civil liberties and really everyone’s who is an American citizen.”
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