U.S. Jews Sue Airbnb Over Israeli Settlement Ban

Suit in U.S. federal court accuses company of ‘redlining’ Jewish-owned properties

A Jewish-owned home listed on Airbnb near the Israeli settlement of Shiloh in the West Bank, November 20, 2018.
AFP

A group of American Jews sued Airbnb on Wednesday in U.S. federal court, accusing the home rental company of religious discrimination over its decision last week to remove listings for about 200 homes in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The 18 plaintiffs, including Israeli-American families and individuals who said they own or wish to rent affected homes, accused Airbnb of “redlining” Jewish-owned properties while letting Muslims and Christians rent their homes.

They said this effectively left Airbnb taking sides in the dispute over the West Bank, where Palestinians hope to establish a state and which Israel captured in 1967, along with East Jerusalem.

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“We don’t believe this lawsuit will succeed in court, but we know that people will disagree with our decision and appreciate their perspective,” Airbnb said in a statement.

The complaint was filed in federal court in Delaware, where Airbnb is incorporated, and which the plaintiffs said has jurisdiction over the San Francisco-based company’s alleged violation of U.S. laws against housing discrimination.

“Airbnb has made a religion- and nationality-based decision about who can list,” Robert Tolchin, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, told Reuters. “It decided in the United States, ‘We will not list for Jews in the West Bank.’ It should be equal access for all.”

The plaintiffs are seeking injunctive relief and unspecified damages, including for lost rental income.

A suit challenging Airbnb’s policy was filed in a Jerusalem court on November 22.

The Delaware case differed by claiming that “Airbnb is violating Americans’ rights, and this can’t be argued in an Israeli court under Israeli law,” Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, another lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in an interview.

Airbnb’s delisting was announced on November 19 and applies only in the West Bank, where Palestinians have limited self-rule under Israeli military occupation.

While concluding that “companies should not profit on lands where people have been displaced,” Airbnb said it had “deep respect” for the “many strong views” about what to do with disputed lands.