Vacationer Refused Airbnb Accomodations in London Because He Is Israeli

Host says world sees Israelis as 'aggressive settlers occupying lands'; Airbnb states he has been removed from the community.

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Tourists stand on Westminster Bridge near the Big Ben clock tower at the Houses of Parliament in London, U.K.
Tourists stand on Westminster Bridge near the Big Ben clock tower at the Houses of Parliament in London, U.K.Credit: Bloomberg

Ben Kelmer, an Israeli who sought to rent an apartment in London through Airbnb, the website that pairs owners of apartments with guests looking for short-term accommodations, was told by a prospective host that he can't stay at a property because he is from Israel.

"This is how the world pictures you: aggressive settlers occupying lands, destroying houses. In a few words, not respecting basic human rights. On that basis, I just cannot consider hosting you, even if you pay me millions," said the message sent by the host to the Tel Aviv-based photographer.

Writing about the incident on Airbnb's Facebook page, Kelmer called it "discrimination at its finest, poorly masked as so-called, socially-conscious political protest of the worst, most prejudiced kind, that is strictly reserved to Israelis."

Airbnb replied that the incident would be investigated. Airbnb later told JTA in a statement that it had removed the host.

“Discrimination has no place on Airbnb and we have removed this host from our community,” the statement said. “We are proud to have one of the most open, trusted, diverse and transparent communities in the world and investigate any claims we receive.”

In December, a 13-year-old Israeli girl received a somewhat similar rebuff from a British citizen. When Shachar Rabinovitch of Zichron Yaakov emailed Marsha Levine, a former academic at the University of Cambridge, with questions for a research project on horses, Levine responded that she supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against Israel.

“You might be a child, but if you are old enough to write to me, you are old enough to learn about Israeli history and how it has impacted on the lives of Palestinian people,” Levine wrote.

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