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Airbnb: A good company in a bad spot

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Airbnb: A good company in a bad spot

Key insights

Considering we think there are reasonable arguments on both sides of this discussion, one focused on Airbnb’s clear willingness to do the right thing when left uncoerced and the other focused on countering the settlers’ attempts to inflict a heavy price on Airbnb if it chooses to do the right thing, we are giving Airbnb a “Questionable” rating.

Halal Investors has been encouraged by some of our subscribers in the past few months to reassess our comfort  rating for one company in particular - Airbnb.

We initially gave the global vacation rental company a “comfortable” rating in support of its positive, hospitality centered business model. 

Some of you have raised the issue of Airbnb’s property listings in the Israeli settlements of the West Bank. These settlements have been built illegally on stolen Palestinian land. For many, profiting from property rentals on this stolen land feels like accepting the dispossession and occupation of Palestine’s native population. 

In 2018, Airbnb announced it would remove 200 listings in Israeli settlements in the West Bank from its platform; a step in the right direction.

In response, several Israeli lawyers sued the company for a combined $840,000 for its attempted withdrawal from the illegal settlements. Faced with these costs and substantial legal fees, Airbnb backtracked on its decision and the 200 listings remained on its website. 

To their credit, Airbnb announced it would not take any profits from listings in the settlements; instead, the money would go to “organizations dedicated to humanitarian aid that serve people in different parts of the world.”

These facts and the overall impression that Airbnb was genuinely trying to do the right thing is what drove our initial rating of “Comfortable”.

Another perspective on this matter is the following: The illegal settlers correctly calculated that inorder to coerce Airbnb to act in the way they want and normalize their thievery, they needed to make Airbnb pay a heavy price for attempting to do the right thing. 

Their plan worked. 

Rather than acquiesce, the appropriate response is for the good guys (the internationally recognized rightful owners of the land and their supporters), to make Airbnb pay an even greater price for not doing the right thing. 

One could argue that not investing or dealing with the company until it completely dissociates with the illegal settlers is a step in this direction.

Considering we think there are reasonable arguments on both sides of this discussion, one focused on Airbnb’s clear willingness to do the right thing when left uncoerced and the other focused on countering the settlers’ attempts to inflict a heavy price on Airbnb if it chooses to do the right thing, we are giving Airbnb a “Questionable” rating.

It’s a really tough call for us to make but that’s why we have the “Questionable” rating i.e. for tough calls.

We still think Airbnb’s management are fundamentally good people and that the evil here is coming from the side of the settlers and the courts that protect them. We want to make sure we’re clear about this.

Are we wrong about our rating?

We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Agree or disagree with our insight? Share your feedback.

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