Rick Santorum | Former U.S. Senator

Antisemitism in Europe and the United States has been on the rise over the past decade. Alarmingly, we have even witnessed the spread of antisemitism on college campuses across the country. Last October, the nation was horrified by the mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue in my hometown, Pittsburgh. The motivation of the shooting, we learned, was antisemitism. These anti-Semitic acts are an affront to everything we hold dear as Americans.

Besides the dangerous rise of anti-Semitic violence, another anti-Semitic movement is underway. Radical activists are adopting the principles of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, a campaign that allows its adherents to cloak their anti-Semitism in opposition to Israeli policies. And last year a major U.S. company, Airbnb, had joined its ranks.

Israel holds a special place in my heart. My faith informs my commitment to the safety of the Jewish people and the security of the Jewish state. I know that I am not alone in this regard. Israel has been our closest ally in the Middle East, and according to Gallup, seven in 10 Americans view Israel favorably. There is good reason to do so.

Israel is the one democracy in the Middle East. All people are invited to celebrate their faith in the Holy Land and worship as they choose. From my time serving on Capitol Hill, I know how closely our military and our intelligence community works with Israeli counterparts. We help to keep each other safe.

Americans also have a special responsibility to ensure that Jews are never singled out and held to a different standard than others. But that’s what the BDS movement does. And it’s exactly what Airbnb had enshrined in its corporate policies.

Last year, in November, Airbnb began targeting Jews living in the West Bank by banning them from listing properties on their platform. Only Jews. Not Muslims. Not Christians.

It is deplorable. Airbnb’s shameful choice does not reflect the values held by my family — or our country.

Airbnb said their policy was about “disputed territories.” It wasn’t. It was a lie. There were and still are listings right now in northern Cyprus, Tibet and Nagorno-Karabakh. You can book a stay with Airbnb in Kashmir. And this so-called disputed territory appears to be little more than a subjective definition. For example, Airbnb has listings in Kosovo, which is recognized by the U.S., but is not a member state of the United Nations.

By joining the BDS movement — by holding Jews to a different standard — Airbnb had made itself the poster-child for corporate anti-Semitism. Of course, Airbnb was free to do so, but there can and should be consequences. Political leaders on both sides of the aisle quickly condemned the company’s actions through tough policies and strictly enforced sanctions.

I commend courageous leaders in Florida and Texas who took a strong stand against Airbnb. In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis imposed sanctions on Airbnb, which were backed unanimously by the members of the State Board Administration and by other leaders in the Florida Legislature.

These sanctions designated Airbnb as the first American firm to be placed on the state’s anti-BDS “scrutinized” list and prohibited state employees from using Airbnb for reimbursable work-related travel. Being placed on Florida’s anti-BDS scrutinized list also means state public pension dollars would have been prohibited from being included in any investment fund tied to Airbnb.

Texas Comptroller, Glenn Hager, also demonstrated the Lone Star State’s commitment to Israel by placing Airbnb on the state’s Divestment Statute List, prohibiting the company’seligibility for various state contracts. Government-operated entities in Texas were also not allowed to invest in Airbnb.

Last month due to bipartisan political pressure and federal lawsuits, filed by dual U.S.-Israeli citizens who own homes in the settlements, Airbnb finally reversed its anti-Semitic policy. Companies make ill informed decisions all the time, but Airbnb stood by their position for nearly six months in spite of legitimately being accused of anti-Semitism. This is concerning because it demonstrates that anti-Semitic behavior or policies do not carry the stigma they once did. Put in context with the anti-Semitic statements by members of Congress and a rise of the BDS movement on campus this shows a troubling trend among elites in our country.

That’s why Congress must act to make it clear there is no quarter for anti-semitism in America. I urge Democrats and Republicans alike, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi to bring the Combatting BDS Act up for a vote and my former House colleagues to pass it immediately. Congress should also pass the Israel Anti-Boycott Act. Together, these two pieces of legislation will send a loud and clear signal on behalf of the American people that offensive and discriminatory policies carry a cost.

I am encouraged by Americans of every faith who expressed their support of Israel by condemning the choices of Airbnb and forcing their hand.

Rick Santorum represented Pennsylvania in the U.S. Senate from 1995 to 2007.


The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.

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