Israel West Bank Settlements Dec 2012 2
The West Bank Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim, near Jerusalem, is seen behind sign posts. Palestinian officials have pledged to take action against Airbnb for 'illegally profiting from occupation'.Reuters

Palestinian officials strongly condemned Airbnb on 12 January over its "illegal" West Bank listings. The renting agency is being criticised for listing rooms for rent in settlements in the occupied West Bank and stating their location on the website as Israel.

Speaking to AFP, Husam Zomlot, ambassador at large for the Palestinian government, said: "Certainly we will take further action. This is strikingly illegal ... Such acts by international firms and the private sector have been a main contributor to the continuity and escalation of the situation."

Zomlot further criticised Airbnb for "illegally profiting from occupation," referring to the several many advertised rentals across West Bank locations. "It's not only controversial, it's illegal and criminal... there will come a time when companies like this, who profit from the occupation, will be taken to court," said Zomlot. None of the advertisements mention Palestinian territory under their location.

AirBnb, however, failed to comment on the accusation by Palestinian authorities. The US-based company released a short statement saying: "We follow laws and regulations on where we can do business and investigate concerns raised about specific listings." The listings also come with no warnings over safety or security.

According to one Airbnb listing in a "residential suburb of Jerusalem", reported The National: "Efrat is a beautiful, residential and lush town, close to Jerusalem, surrounded by historical sites and nice walking paths in nature ... [the property is] part of the state of Israel." When questioned if interested parties were warned of the security concerns of the region, the host said: "people come to us knowing that Efrat is part of the state of Israel, and are not concerned with safety and security issues."

Meanwhile, the Israeli tourism ministry has maintained that there is no distinction between the West Bank settlements and Israel. "The ministry recommends visiting and staying in every place throughout the country as no distinction can be made between one place or the next," said a spokeswoman at the Israeli tourism ministry, reported France24 News.