Airbnb is Anti-Semitic

I rarely disagree with my good friend Rabbi Avi Shafran, even privately. Public disagreement between us is rarer then good single malt being left unfinished at a high-end kiddush. Friends, it must be time for another round of drinks. This disagreement is major; the implications of my friend’s piece spell danger to the Jewish State, and to Jewish lives.

It is anti-Semitic to treat Jews differently than any other people – period. End of discussion. Acceding to an expectation that Jews are tolerated only when they live on a higher plane than others is intolerable, and puts us all in jeopardy. If we will be allowed safety and security only when living like angels, we had all better up our insurance policies. (If I were working for Lloyds of London, I wouldn’t issue them. We are not all going to be perfect.) And while we all believe that our security only comes from HKBH, that does not stop us from conducting our hishtadlus for Jewish safety with full vigor. That hishtadlus demands that we call out as morally repugnant any explicit or implicit demand that Jews need to act differently than anyone else to enjoy the rights extended to all others.

We ought to remind ourselves of Natan Sharansky’s 3Ds that served well as a measure of anti-Semitism for decades: double-standard, delegitimization, and demonization.[1] Airbnb’s decision to delist Jewish properties in Yehudah and Shomron was a clear example of double-standard at work. Airbnb did not take similar action in several other trouble spots. Agree or not, there is an alternative way of looking at the present exercise of Jewish control than calling it occupation. Israel calls the area “disputed territory.”[2] No Palestinian nation existed in those areas, only one that was to have been created by the UN Partition of 1947, which was rejected by all Arabs concerned. Palestine, the state-to-be, was then “occupied” without much fanfare by Syria, Jordan, and Egypt. The final status of that area should be, according to Israel, determined by direct negotiations between the parties – something Israel has been willing to do, and the Palestinians steadfastly refused.[3]

There are patently unambiguous “occupations” around the world, and no one raises their voices against them. Chinese occupation of Tibet is clear-cut, bloody and aimed at cultural obliteration. Airbnb lists over 300 properties there. There is no action pending in equally unambiguously occupied northern Cyprus (occupied by Turkey) or the Western Sahara (occupied by Morocco). If we were to add dozens of more ambiguous occupations (Russia of Ukrainian Crimea), Airbnb would need overtime help with the delistings.

Airbnb – acknowledging that their expertise in not in international affairs – nonetheless picked one conflict out of many for boycott. Furthermore, despite their lack of expertise, they determined who was at fault for the continued impasse. It is not Hamas rockets, PA corruption, or Palestinian intransigence. Rather, it is “the Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank… [that] are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.” They chose to boycott the Jewish State, while they have boycotted no other. That is anti-Semitism, and it has to be treated as such. With a full throat. Failure to do so both encourages anti-Semitism, as well as tacitly supports the contention that the “occupation” is the chief cause of Palestinian evil and savagery.

Rabbi Shafran wrote that Airbnb’s reasoning – inconsistent as it may be – does not necessarily show anti-Semitism at work. It may reflect the truth of the Torah’s calling us a people that dwells alone, not reckoned among the nations:

The crazy attention the world gives Jews and the country established for them should inspire us, confirming as it does the truth of the Torah, which includes what Bilam may have meant as a curse but which stands as a silent yet deafening testimony to the specialness of Klal Yisrael.

This is unacceptable. The specialness of Klal Yisrael should guide us to constantly improving ourselves before Hashem, and before the rest of the world. It is for us to reflect upon, but never something to be deployed against (or for) other groups. We should not use it to claim “superiority” (that is not what it means), nor to give them a license to mistreat us. We don’t give Paroh a free ride because the Egyptian exile had been foretold to Avraham. He was punished dramatically because it wasn’t his business to carry out the Divine decree (Rambam), or because the crimes he committed were far in excess of what Hashem called for. (See Ramban, Bereishis 15:14.) Airbnb and its BDS colleagues are not interested in benignly maintaining an isolation to keep Jews holy. They mean it, like Bilam, as a curse. And we don’t accept curses – even straight from Hashem – as matters of fact. We work to minimize them.[4]

Let’s keep our specialness for what it was intended – consciousness of never taking a moment off from our mission of maximizing k’vod Shomayim. It has nothing to do with Airbnb’s treachery, which must be resisted. The piece should not have been written. Hamodia should not have published it.

Please tell me, Avi, when we can be friends again.

  1. They were employed by the US State Dept for seven years, and replaced only because of the global support for the Working Definition that was adopted in 2017.

  2. Granted that this approach, as rational as it may be, is rejected by the “world community.” We, however, should not be hamstrung by the evil hypocrisy of the UN. We should not hesitate for an instant to promote this view if only as a counterargument to that of Israel’s enemies.

  3. Interestingly, there is a conflict zone that Bill Clinton termed the most dangerous area in the world. It brought two powers to engage in warfare twice in the same years as the Middle East conflict. Both are nuclear powers, which meant that the world faced – and still faces –the possibility of a nuclear duel between them, with its implications for the rest of humanity. President Obama made a sophomoric attempt at solving it, and failed miserably. The current State Dept. position is that others should not interfere, because it can only be solved by the parties themselves. They should be encouraged to negotiate directly. This area, of course, is not Israel, but Kashmir.

  4. Eve was cursed with the pain of childbirth. Some Protestant groups did not initially accept the use of anesthesia in delivery for that reason. To the best of my knowledge, there was no such parallel in Torah circles.

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22 Responses

  1. Manny Saltiel says:

    Thank you for saving me the time of writing a letter to the editor, Rabbi Adlerstein. I also rarely disagree with Rabbi Shafran, and when my do my first instinct is to assume I am mistaken in my assumptions. Such is my high degree of respect for his wisdom. It was therefore difficult for me to understand his perspective. After admitting that AirBnB has no qualms about including Arab-owned housing in the disputed territories west of the Jordan River, as well as homes and apartments in other disputed territories in the world, Rabbi Shafran continued to try to differentiate anti-Judaism from Antisemitism. Thank you for clarifying my thoughts for me.

  2. Reb Yid says:

    If they were truly anti-Semitic they would not have distinguished between Israel proper and the other side of the Green Line.

    The argument is based on politics, not hatred of Jews. Disagree with the decision but don’t call it what it isn’t.

  3. Steve Brizel says:

    R Adlerstein sets forth an excellent case where AirBnB should be boycotted by members of the Torah Observant commu ity that would otherwise sought out its services. Many years ago the Swedish government was banning shechita and the necessary OU and RCA individuals met with representatives who advised them in no uncertain terms that the then very popular Volvo was a popular car in our communities.

  4. dr. bill says:

    Reb Yid, not boycotting all of Israel differentiates blatant versus insidious anti-semitism. airbnb made a calculation of what they would lose among those who use their site by de-listing homes in “the occupied territories” versus the free advertising and increased business they would gain among those who would increase use their site. my guess is that might have calculated correctly even without the gratuitous gift r. Shafran and J street bestowed.

    i suspect de-listing elsewhere would not have caused the uproar and hence the free advertising that Israel provides. when the UN concentrates on human rights in “the occupied territories” we know what to call it. when it can be explained by a crass business decision, it becomes a bit harder to see for what it is.

  5. Alex says:

    Thank you Rabbi Adlerstein for responding where we cannot!
    I suppose according to that twisted logic, the turning back of the ship St. Louis and other immigration quotas in the 1930’s were not “anti-semitic” either, because not all hopeful US immigrants were Jewish. At least that’s what FDR and the US Dept of State want you to think.

  6. Reb Yid says:

    Dr. Bill:

    I respectfully disagree. Deciding not to engage in activities on the other side of the Green Line is one that quite a number of individuals, groups, institutions and entities have made over the years. Many of said entities, groups and individuals have themselves been Jewish, including a good number of Jewish Federations.

    I myself want as little as possible to do with it either. I do have family living on the other side of the Green Line and shalom bayit comes before everything, so I go there for that specific reason. It is not an easy decision for me to make–every time I visit I want less and less do to with it. There are plenty of Israelis I know who know little to nothing about what goes on there and want nothing to do with it, either. Does that make them anti-Semitic, too?

    Again–one can disagree with the political decisions being made. Just don’t call it anti-Semitism just because you don’t like their politics.

  7. Raymond says:

    A subject like this is just so upsetting to me, that I am not sure I can express myself in a calm and deliberate manner on this, although I will give it a try.

    Let’s suppose for a moment that the disputed land in question does not belong to us Jews. Well, but what does that have to do with Jews living there? What I mean is this. Imagine if, say, some neighborhood in America would declare that Blacks may not live there. Just imagine the uproar it would justifiably bring. We would never hear the end of, and yet somehow, when it comes to making a particular land Judenrein, somehow that is okay. And to add insult to injury, the irony of it all is that the land in question really forms the Biblical heartland of Israel. This is aside from the fact that the land was captured in a purely defensive war, which should justify our being in charge of that land, even from a purely secular perspective. In other words, what the world is demanding of us, is that the most Jewish land in the entire world, have no Jews exist in it. If the matter under question were not so serious, I might think that it is some kind of bad joke.

    What frustrates me about all this, though, is not that I may not be as skilled as others are in making a case for our controlling that land. Rather, it is that I have to present such attempts at defending our homeland in the first place. No other country on Earth is constantly being challenged to justify its existence. The fact that it is only we Jews who are forced to do so, is in itself a form of antisemitism.

    And as for this company or that company doing what they can to destroy our little country through economic means, all I can say is that the Holocaust did not make antisemitism go away. Rather, it made its adherents find alternative ways to express their hatred against us Jews. And with the sharp rise in antisemitism over in Europe thanks in large part to their large increases in moslem populations, I tend to think that such hatred for our Jewish people is just an automatic given, something that will never disappear because for whatever reason, the world cannot stand it that we Jews continue to exist. The world will just never forgive us for bringing G-d’s Absolute Morality to our world.

  8. YS says:

    Seems to me that the fact that Airbnb, like many other organizations around the world, has chosen to single out Israel for its ‘occupation’ of Yehuda V’Shomron is not indicative of its own anti-semitism so much as its bowing to or going with the flow of the unfortunate international reality, in which Israel is in fact singled out, mostly due to Arab money and other realpolitik realities.

    While the Arabs are surely anti-semitic and have succeeded in disproportionately focusing the world on the supposed tragic plight of the Palestinians , does it really make sense to label anyone who is either too gullible or weak to combat this reality as anti-semitic?

    Wouldn’t it be more accurate to state (such as in the title of the blogpost/article) that Airbnb has caved in to anti-semitic forces rather than calling Airbnb anti-semitic? Something along the old ‘all it takes for evil to triumph…’

  9. Gavriel M says:

    Avi Shafran is right for the wrong reasons. The reason why AirBnB made this decision is not because Israel is the Jewish state, in fact, that factor almost certainly delayed and moderated their decision by giving Israel a few extra victim points. The reason they single out Israel is because they perceive it to be a case of white oppressing people of colour, which is in fact how all consistent liberals perceive it based on their evil world view. Exactly the same logic is at work when liberals condemn a policeman who tries to defend himself from a holy person of colour, high on drugs, fresh from robbing a liquor store and walking in the middle of the road who responds to attempted arrest by trying to wrest the policeman’s gun from his hand. All the other cases of disputed territories around the world either can’t be divided into evil whites vs holy people of colour or worse, the holy people of colour are the occupying power, as in Cyprus.

    It’s true that antisemitism lies behind most anti-Israel politics on the Right (such as there is), among Muslims, and, perhaps, to some extent, in some parts of the Far Left. However, the opposition to Israeli settlements across the entirety of the liberal world with the partial exception of the U.S. plainly has nothing to do with antisemitism and fear of wandering into antisemitism is actually a major limiting factor (good thing too, under the circumstances). If Israel were not Jewish, it would be subjected to the exact same pressures that forced Rhodesia to commit suicide and hand over their island of civilized prosperity to a gang of murderous, racist thugs (with the full approval of 95% of diaspora Jewry and, I’m sure, Avi Shafran and perhaps Yitzhok Adlerstein too).

  10. Dear Reb Yid,
    The next time you come to Israel, please take care not to visit the Kotel, Har Hazeitim or Kever Rachel, so that you will not insult your conscience.

  11. dr. bill says:

    Reb Yid, I am a left-leaning believer in a two-state solution, ala Yair Lapid or Tzipi Livni. but if you think any home that Airbnb de-listed is in an area that might even possibly be part of an Arab state, you have to a closet believer in the lack of a need for a Jewish state. In any case, it is not what was done, but the specific attention to Israel, which I and others view as anti-semitic.

  12. Steve Berman says:

    I need to agree with Raymond and ask Reb Yid to explain.
    How is it that it is considered normal for us to assume that a Palestinian homeland should be free of Jews, and that if we express an interest in living in a Palestine state we are somehow hindering the peace process?
    Israel is 20% Arab, isn’t it logical to assume that a true peace partner would welcome their new Jewish citizens?
    I just drove to Herodium and could not fail to note the large red signs leading to arab neighborhoods that warned of death to any jew heading in that direction.
    I would avoid living over the green line. Not bc it somehow hampers the peace process rather bc it is a poor investment. Who knows when the Israeli govt will forcibly evict me in the name of making a new Judenrein Palestinian state.

  13. lacosta says:

    the reality is that ,especially those of us on the political right [in Israel] , the settlement enterprise was created to ‘establish facts on the ground’ , in order to stake claim to the land of Yehuda v’Shomron. The assumption seems to have been that the natives wouldn’t mind being under military occupation l’olam vaed. Therefore, no plan B was ever seriously considered. Having created an unpleasant reality , with no apparent solution [ ‘no partner for peace’] , the increased world emnity will be focused on the entire Jewish state –we leave them no other choice. they hock about ‘from the river to the sea’ because that’s the same area we ALSO want as ours , alone.
    There isn’t a moral will to re-partition Palestine . so our only option is military, hasbara , and a lot of tefilla….

  14. mycroft says:

    .FWIW-I agree with Rabbi Shafran in this issue. It is reality that the world treats pre 67 Israel with exception of Jerusalem differently than the rest of Israel, see eg
    will list Embassy in Jerusalem without country name after it compared to listing for other countries such as Amman Jordan.

  15. Bob Miller says:

    How could X possibly do Y to us? Maybe X grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. Maybe X absorbed some insidious message from parents, peers, teachers, media, clergy, or politicians. Maybe X feels oppressed. Maybe somebody else had done Y to X. On and on and on… The main thing is to make X stop doing Y to us, now and in the future.

    When an action or series of actions threatens our interests or our persons, we need to respond as effectively as possible to reduce and end the threat. To help us formulate a response, we should try to figure out what motivates the actions. But we should never use our impressions about motivation as excuses to respond timidly or not at all!

  16. Steve Brizel says:

    Myrcroft-we should have all learned one fact from the build up to the Six day War-Israel will do what it deems necessary to protect its citizens even and especially when would be allies fail to offer real support-that is because the world mourns dead Jews but has no use for Jews who assert their identity and right to defend themselves. When Israel is judged by harsher standards than N Korea or the equivalent , then the opinion of “the world” is rooted in anti Semitism

  17. Steve Brizel says:

    Again, the best response to AirBnB is your wallet.

  18. mark says:

    “Deciding not to engage in activities on the other side of the Green Line is one that quite a number of individuals, groups, institutions and entities have made over the years. Many of said entities, groups and individuals have themselves been Jewish, including a good number of Jewish Federations.”

    Anyone here shocked that “Reb Yid” found support in Jewish Federations and others who are similarly leftist?

    Jewish Federations by and large are like weather vanes. You always know which direction by watching them formulate their positions.

    Reb Yid – you can save your pixels in the future if all you intend to do is state your blatantly leftist positions and quote other leftists for support. We know before you write it what the leftists think.

  19. Reb Yid says:


    Right back at you with the predictable, uncritical amen chorus from the usual suspects.

    Truth be told, Federations (whether Jewish or general) are centrist consensus organizations by design. They tend to be criticized by partisan ideologues from both political extremes. They tend to favor the status quo over rapid change and, to the extent that changes do occur, usually make changes in very slow, gradual and incremental ways.

    In any event, this all belongs in the political realm. My main point remains–it is wrong, foolhardy and even dangerous to call something anti-Semitic when such activities have also characterized some who are very active within the organized Jewish community. It also runs the danger of geshraying ‘wolf’–reserve that treatment when the label fits the activity, otherwise you’ll be tuned out when you’ll need people’s attention the most.

  20. mycroft says:

    I was not discussing your point, merely showing how current US policy doesn’t even list Israel of part of address of US building not in pre 67 Jordan

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