Back in November 2018 the BBC News website published no fewer than three reports (see ‘related articles’ below) concerning an announcement from the American company Airbnb concerning its intention to remove some 200 listings in Israeli communities in Judea & Samaria.
All three of those reports – two written and one filmed – promoted the corporation’s standard mantra concerning ‘international law’ with the BBC electing once again to ignore its editorial obligation of “due impartiality” by erasing from audience view the existence of legal opinions which contradict its chosen narrative.
The two written reports uncritically amplified statements made by the political NGO ‘Human Rights Watch’ and the second article even provided a link to a problematic report produced by that NGO and another called ‘Kerem Navot’ which was actually a political campaign focusing exclusively on Jewish Israelis.
On April 10th the BBC News website published a report titled “Airbnb reverses ban on West Bank settlement listings” which opened by telling readers that:
“Airbnb has reversed its decision to remove rental listings of homes located inside Jewish settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.”
The background to that reversal was portrayed by the BBC as follows:
“Israeli lawyers filed a class action suit, which is when a group of people with similar claims sues the defendant in one action.
The suit sought 15,000 shekels ($4,200; £3,200) for each host of the 200 homes that were due to be deleted from Airbnb’s listings.
Airbnb said that under the terms of a settlement it would “not move forward with implementing the removal of listings in the West Bank from the platform”.”
However the BBC did not inform its audiences of the basis for that class action suit.
“The suit was filed under the Fair Housing Act, which was meant to prevent discrimination against minorities in the United States. Because Airbnb is based in the United States, it must adhere to the act in all its listings worldwide.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs claimed that Airbnb was discriminating against them for being Jewish, given that it still allowed listings by Palestinian Muslims and Christians in the West Bank.
“The policy Airbnb announced last November was abject discrimination against Jewish users of the website,” Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, the president of Shurat Hadin, said in a statement. “Whatever one’s political view, discrimination based on religious affiliation should never be the solution.””
Readers would hence no doubt have found it difficult to understand why one of the people quoted in a section of the report sub-headed “What’s the reaction been?” used the term “discriminatory”.
“Eugene Kontorovich, director of international law at the Kohelet Policy Forum in Jerusalem, told AFP news agency: “Airbnb has realized what we have long argued – that boycotts of Jews anywhere, even just in the West Bank, are discriminatory.”
That sub-section went on to uncritically amplify statements from two of the BBC’s most quoted and promoted political NGOs – Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International – while making no effort to adhere to the corporation’s own editorial guidelines by informing audiences of the political agenda of those organisations.
“But Arvind Ganesan of Human Rights Watch said: “Donating profits from unlawful settlement listings, as they’ve promised to do, does nothing to remedy the ‘human suffering’ they have acknowledged that their activities cause.
“By continuing to do business in settlements, they remain complicit in the abuses settlements trigger,” he added.
An Amnesty International report published earlier in the year argued that Airbnb was among the digital tourism companies profiting from “war crimes” by offering services in West Bank settlements.” [emphasis added]
As usual, readers of this report were presented with the corporation’s chosen one-sided narrative on ‘international law’ – “the settlements are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this” – without the existence of alternative opinions even being acknowledged.
And so once again BBC audiences got a carefully framed portrayal of this story which, while promoting an anti-Israel NGO’s “war crimes” hyperbole, failed to adequately present the whole picture.
BBC News website framing of the Airbnb listings story
More inadequate BBC reports on the Airbnb story
The NGOs and Funders Behind Airbnb’s BDS Policy (NGO Monitor)
Promoted and quoted: the BBC’s preferred NGO contributors in 2018