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21
Nov
2018

Saeb Erekat, Airbnb, and BDS


In recent Tweets and statements, Palestinian chief negotiator, propagandist, and PLO Secretary-General Saeb Erekat has been celebrating a decision1 by the “Airbnb” international home-rental company to remove listings of vacation apartments in Israel’s West Bank towns, villages, and settlements that the company considers to be “at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.”

Airbnb co-founders

Airbnb co-founders (Airbnb press room)2

 The Airbnb decision is based upon a January 2016 letter sent by Erekat, in the name of “The State of Palestine,” to the CEO of Airbnb condemning “illegal colonization of Palestine” and the promoting of house rentals “in illegal settlements in the occupied State of Palestine.”

Mr. Erekat’s oft-repeated and tedious propaganda on this, as well as other issues related to the Israeli-Palestinian relationship, is based on flawed, slanted, and highly partisan determinations, exaggerations, and lies. All these in fact belie his own deep involvement in negotiating the Oslo accords with Israel.

The Distortions of Saeb Erekat

Saeb Erekat should know better than to distort facts, law, and history, thereby manipulating Airbnb and other companies and bodies into involving themselves in issues to which they have no connection and cannot, in any way, contribute positively.

To the contrary, in allowing itself to be manipulated by Mr. Erekat, Airbnb is prejudicing a large basis of customer support among Jews, Christians, and Muslims, all of whom work together in the very areas that Airbnb is now boycotting. In fact, the homes in the West Bank that are now being boycotted by Airbnb are a subject for ongoing negotiation under the Oslo accords.

But above all, Airbnb has rendered itself politically motivated and involved in a most partisan manner, singling out Israel only. It is supporting and sanctioning an openly hostile movement that is intent on causing economic and cultural damage to Israel and aligning itself with hostile organizations and groups supporting acts of violence and terror against Israel.  

BDS Movement Airbnb tweet

Airbnb claims to “believe that people-to-people travel has considerable value and we want to help bring people together in as many places as possible around the world.”3

Rather than expending such tireless and negative efforts on trying to undermine Israel and its leadership in every possible forum and opportunity, one might have expected that Saeb Erekat, the Palestinian chief negotiator and PLO secretary general, would better devote his efforts to encouraging and leading his people to peaceful coexistence both among themselves and with Israel.

In fact, based on his own extensive negotiating experience, his awareness of the issues and his intimate connections with all levels of the Israeli leadership, one might have expected that he serve as a bridge between the Palestinians and Israel, to instill mutual trust rather than distrust, and to advocate peaceful coexistence rather than to advocate boycott and delegitimization.

Saeb Erekat’s flawed, misleading, and slanted representations and determinations to Airbnb need to be corrected:

  • Even though Erekat speaks in the name of the “State of Palestine,” such a state does not exist and has never existed. It is incompatible with the accepted international law standards for statehood.
  • Whether such a state will ever exist is a negotiating issue between the Palestinians and Israel on the permanent status of the territories, as agreed upon in the Oslo accords, which were negotiated and drafted by Saeb Erekat himself.
  • The Palestinian leadership bases its claim to statehood on the non-binding UN General Assembly Resolution no. 67/19 passed in 2012, which recommended upgrading the status of the Palestinian UN observer delegation to “non-member observer State status in the United Nations.” They have manipulated international bodies into believing that this resolution is the source of authority for the Palestinian state. However, the UN General Assembly has neither the power nor legal authority to establish states nor to determine statehood.
  • This resolution was nothing more than a non-binding political recommendation, devoid of any legal authority.
  • This is borne out by the fact that the same resolution goes on to call for the resumption of negotiations on a comprehensive peace settlement between the Palestinian and Israeli sides. Since such negotiations are intended to determine the permanent status of the territory and the nature of the Palestinian entity that would govern the territory, clearly any claim that the resolution established a state has no basis. Any claim as to the establishment or existence of a Palestinian state is clearly premature and prejudges the outcome of the very negotiations called for by the resolution.
  • Since no Palestinian state exists, there is no “occupied Palestinian state” or “occupied Palestinian territory” as Erekat claims. The solution to the issue of the disputed territories and their future status and borders, as well as the status of the Israeli and Palestinian sides, are agreed-upon negotiating issues, negotiated by Erekat himself.
  • As such, Erekat’s malicious allegations regarding “illegal colonization” and breaches of the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court are incompatible with his own and the Palestinian commitments in the Oslo accords, as drafted by Erekat. Such Oslo commitments include the interim division of powers and authority in the areas between a Palestinian Authority and Israel and the commitment to negotiate the issue of settlements and the permanent status of the territories.
  • Saeb Erekat’s reliance on provisions of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court falsely assumes that the court has jurisdiction over the disputed territories. This is deliberately misleading. Since there is no Palestinian state, and therefore no Palestinian territory, the court cannot exercise jurisdiction over an area the status of which is pending negotiation.
  • The Palestinian attempt to become party to the Rome Statute and empower the International Criminal Court with jurisdiction is legally flawed, since only sovereign states may become party to the Statute and the Court. The Palestinian standing vis-à-vis the Court, as well as the status of the many complaints that they have issued against Israeli leaders, are thus legally flawed and have yet to be examined juridically.

The fact that Airbnb has allowed itself to be manipulated and pressured into singling out Israel and joining a boycott of Israel’s towns and villages in the West Bank is regrettable.

It is even more regrettable since it is based on the flawed, misleading, and malicious allegations of Saeb Erekat. It is to be hoped that Airbnb will see through this unfortunate manipulation.

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Notes

About Amb. Alan Baker

Amb. Alan Baker is Director of the Institute for Contemporary Affairs at the Jerusalem Center and the head of the Global Law Forum. He participated in the negotiation and drafting of the Oslo Accords with the Palestinians, as well as agreements and peace treaties with Egypt, Jordan, and Lebanon. He served as legal adviser and deputy director-general of Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and as Israel’s ambassador to Canada.
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