Airbnb Being Sued Over West Bank Settlement Boycott

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January 25, 2019

Five American citizens filed a civil rights lawsuit against Airbnb this week, arguing that its decision to de-list rental properties in West Bank settlements discriminates against Jews and is similar to Nazi boycotts.

Three of the plaintiffs live in the United States, while two also hold Israeli citizenship and live in the Efrat settlement. The plaintiffs contend that Airbnb's policy targets "only those residential dwellings and accommodations in Judea and Samaria that are owned or managed by Jews," according to the Jerusalem Post. They say the policy is "reminiscent of the Nazi-era boycotts against Jewish business and enterprises in Germany during the 1930s."

Furthermore, they note that Airbnb's policy "does not affect the listings of residential dwellings and accommodations in any Arab and Palestinian cities, villages and towns located in Judea and Samaria and does not affect any residential dwellings and accommodations that are owned or managed by Arabs, Palestinians or other non-Jews."

The plaintiffs say Airbnb's policy is discriminatory and therefore violates the Civil Rights Act, the Fair Housing Act, and California's Unfair Competition Law.

Airbnb instituted a similar policy in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two disputed territories in Georgia.

According to the plaintiffs, "Airbnb’s decision to remove listings in South Ossetia and Abkhazia applies to these entire regions and impacts communities of Russians, Georgians, and Abkhazians located in these regions in the same way."

In the West Bank, however, "the Airbnb discriminatory policy only applies to areas that Airbnb classifies as ‘Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.’ Therefore, the discriminatory policy only impacts listings in communities of Jews and Israelis in Judea and Samaria. The policy has no impact on any communities of Arabs and/or Palestinians in the same region."

The lawsuit also ascribed some blame for Airbnb's policy to the nonprofit Human Rights Watch (HRW).

"Through an intensive international media and social media campaign, which included lobbying, meetings, letters, threats and reports, all aimed at intimidating Airbnb, HRW encouraged, aided and abetted Airbnb to adopt this discriminatory policy," the plaintiffs claim.