The University informed staffers Tuesday they would no longer be permitted to use lodging service Airbnb for University business citing Texas law about boycotts of Israel.
Earlier this month, Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar’s office added Airbnb to a list of three companies boycotting Israel. According to a law passed in 2017, House Bill 89, state agencies are not allowed to do business with companies on this list.
In a statement to The Daily Texan, UT President Greg Fenves said the University’s decision was based on state law and condemned the boycott for singling out Israel.
“The state of Texas prohibits agencies from doing business with companies that boycott Israel, as designated by the comptroller,” Fenves said. “The University of Texas at Austin follows that law. Economic boycotts that target Israel unfairly single out one nation and shut down the free exchange of ideas that we value at UT.”
Chris Bryan, a spokesperson for the comptroller, said the comptroller’s office decided to put Airbnb on their “Israel boycott list” after the company announced it would no longer provide listings in the West Bank — a disputed territory both Israel and Palestine are sparring over for control.
Bryan said two investment research vendors were consulted for the decision.
“In November, Airbnb put out a big announcement that they were going to remove listings in the occupied territories in Israel,” Bryan said. “We worked with our vendors to determine whether Airbnb was a suitable candidate for inclusion on the anti-Israel list — or the Israel boycott list — and the vendors agreed that they were … so effective March 1, Airbnb was added to that list.”
In a statement announcing their decision to remove West Bank listings, Airbnb said it created a framework while evaluating the listings that considered their safety and contribution to regional conflict, among other factors.
“As a global platform operating in 191 countries and regions and more than 81,000 cities, we must consider the impact we have and act responsibly,” the statement said. “When we applied our decision-making framework, we concluded that we should remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.”
It’s possible for companies to be removed from the boycott list, but only if they demonstrate a change in the behaviors that landed them on the list in first place, Bryan said.
“We evaluate the list quarterly, but if there’s no change in action on behalf of the company or no change in direction on behalf of the Legislature, it would be unlikely that a company would be removed,” Bryan said.
Bryan also said all companies are put through the same consideration process.
“We don’t want to treat Airbnb any differently than we would treat any other company that would be considered for listing or de-listing for that matter,” Bryan said. “The comptroller takes this role very seriously, and I think it’s been made clear that the relationship between Texas and the state of Israel is very important.”