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Airbnb faces federal court discrimination suit over delisting Jewish homes in ‘West Bank’

Airbnb faces federal court discrimination suit over delisting Jewish homes in ‘West Bank’

Airbnb is emotionally invested in boycotting Jews in the West Bank, and recently confirmed it would implement that policy.

In November, Airbnb announced that it would delist Jewish homes, and only Jewish homes, in Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”).

As I explained at the time, the delisting nominally referred to homes in Settlements, but in the West Bank that is the only place Jews can purchase or rent homes because of Palestinian laws and threats against any Palestinian who rents or sells land to Jews:

The area was ethnically cleansed of Jews by the Jordanians after Jordan captured the area in Israel’s War of Independence. The 1949 Armistice Line was where the fighting stopped, and left many historically Jewish areas, including the Jewish Quarter of the Old City of Jerusalem, in Jordanian hands. Israel recaptured the area in 1967.

Israeli Jews in those areas live in settlements because the regular housing market is not available. Palestinians are forbidden by the Palestinian Authority and terrorist groups, often under threat of death, from selling or renting to Jews. And given the long history of violence, including stabbings and shootings, directed towards Jews in those areas, it would be too dangerous.

The West Bank is disputed territory. For a history of why the settlements are not illegal and the area is not illegally occupied, see our prior posts.

The campaign against Airbnb was led by groups like the extremist U.S. Campaign for Palestinian rights, the misleadingly named “Jewish Voice for Peace,” and Code Pink. The obsessive-compulsive anti-Zionist Ariel Gold of Code Pink even disrupted Airbnb meetings.

The anti-Israel Human Rights Watch, which is leading a UN effort to blacklist companies doing business in the West Bank, was about to come out with a report slamming Airbnb, according to an HRW executive.

Airbnb has capitulated. It will boycott Jews living in the West Bank. While it couches its language referring to “settlements,’ that is just another way of saying Jews because Jews only can live in “settlements” in the West Bank.

We recently covered the story of a Palestinian-American who was sentenced by a Palestinian court to life in prison for selling property to Jews (he later was released after U.S. pressure). Other Palestinians have been murdered for similar actions.

Airbnb came under intense criticism for its actions from Israel and pro-Israel politicians in the U.S. There also have been lawsuits and arbitrations filed on the basis that Airbnb’s actions are anti-Jewish discrimination. I predicted that Airbnb would try to ride out the storm, figuring it would go away.

In December 2018, it appeared that Airbnb was backing down, but it later claimed the statement indicating a reversal of the boycott was released in error. To the contrary, Airbnb recently issued a statement confirming that it was boycotting Jews in the West Bank. As a fig leaf, Airbnb also announced that it was delisting homes in two other “disputed areas,” South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

That fig leaf may do more harm than good to Airbnb’s legal defenses, because only in the West Bank does Airbnb distinguish between home owners based on religion or ethnicity. If Airbnb was delisting all homes in the West Bank, that would be one thing, but instead it is delisting only Jewish homes.

Another lawsuit has just been filed against Airbnb, this time in federal court in San Francisco. Local news reports:

San Francisco-based short-term rental company Airbnb has been sued in federal court over a policy that the plaintiffs of the lawsuit say discriminates against Jewish people.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in San Francisco by attorney’s David Schultz and L. Marc Zell on behalf of six plaintiffs: Eve and Earl Harow of Efrat, Israel; Fay and Neal Shapiro of Los Angeles; and Joel Taubman of Scottsdale, Ariz.

The lawsuit stems from a policy adopted by Airbnb back in November to bar listings from Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank area.

The policy is discriminatory, the suit alleges, because it applies only to the residents of the Israeli towns of Judea and Samaria and not to listings from any Arab or Palestinian towns in the region.

In a statement, Zell said, “Airbnb is eyeing the Israeli market to increase its offerings in the Middle East. It is inconceivable that Airbnb would at the same time alter its longstanding policy against complying with the anti-Semitic BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement by delisting Jewish/Israeli accommodations in Judea and Samaria, while continuing to permit Arab homeowners located literally across the road to participate in the Airbnb program. This lawsuit aims to put an end to this nefarious policy.” …

The lawsuit alleges that Airbnb’s policy violates the federal Fair Housing Act, California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act, California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act and California’s unfair competition law. The suit is seeking unspecified damages, a court order to prohibit Airbnb from the enacting the policy and a declaration that the policy is unlawful.

The Complaint (pdf.)(full embed at bottom of post) alleges, among other things:

1. This action arises out of the recent decision of Defendant Airbnb, Inc. (“Airbnb”) to adopt a policy that intentionally and necessarily discriminates against Jews and Israelis, including citizens of the United States and the State of California, and involves unlawful conduct that the United States and the State of California have long fought to eradicate. On November 19, 2018, Airbnb announced that it would no longer allow Jews who reside in the geographical area known as “Judea and Samaria,” located in the heart of the Land of Israel, to use Airbnb’s online-based hospitality and lodging platform to offer their residential dwellings for rent. Referring to “Judea and Samaria” as “the occupied West Bank,” Airbnb’s announcement specifically stated that it would “remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.” Airbnb applied this policy (the “Discriminatory Policy” or the “Airbnb Discriminatory Policy”) only to residents of Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria; it did not remove listings from any Arab or Palestinian towns located in Judea and Samaria. Airbnb has not applied its Discriminatory Policy, or any similar policy, to any other geographic area in the world. Moreover, the Airbnb Discriminatory Policy effectively prevents all people anywhere in the world, including residents of California, from
using Airbnb’s online services to rent in any Jewish communities or Israeli towns located in Judea and Samaria. Finally, because Jews and Israelis cannot practically seek to rent in Arab or Palestinian towns located in Judea and Samaria, because of legal and safety concerns, the Airbnb Discriminatory Policy effectively prevents all Jews and Israelis located anywhere in the world
from using Airbnb’s online services to rent anywhere in the entire area known as Judea and Samaria or the West Bank.

* * *

4. The anti-Jewish Discriminatory Policy adopted by Airbnb contravenes federal and state law and is repugnant to the core values and mores of the United States and the State of California. This is especially true now, when anti-Semitism is resurgent throughout the United States and the world. Although this action cannot end the scourge of resurgent anti-Semitism, it can redress the specific and grievous harm suffered by Plaintiffs, all of whom are Jewish citizens of the United States, and other similarly situated individuals – harm they have suffered as a result of the Discriminatory Policy enacted by Airbnb, with the encouragement and incitement of HRW and the BDS Movement. Accordingly, this action seeks declaratory relief that the Airbnb Discriminatory Policy violates applicable federal and state law and injunctive relief prohibiting Airbnb from enforcing its newly-enacted Discriminatory Policy.

We will follow the lawsuit. I don’t expect lawsuits to sway Airbnb. It made a decision to delist Jewish homes, and it’s sticking to it unless and until forced by a court or government to change it’s position.

The only other factor that might sway Airbnb is if the mounting legal issues interfere with its planned Initial Public Offering. But even with that I’m not sure Airbnb would back down. Airbnb is emotionally invested in boycotting Jews in the West Bank.


Harow v. Airbnb – Boycott C… by on Scribd


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4th armored div | January 28, 2019 at 3:31 pm

simple – Airbnb is afraid of Muslims and not Jews.

when have you seen Jews decapitate anyone – including wartime ?
ain’t in the Torah!

great unknown | January 28, 2019 at 3:37 pm

It’s even simpler; Airbnb has a board member of the anti-Semitic Women’s march on its board of directors:

BTW, since this suit has been filed in the Ninth Circuit, all it will do is get a ruling affirming the right to discriminate against Jews in Israel.

As I explained at the time, the delisting nominally referred to homes in Settlements, but in the West Bank that is the only place Jews can purchase or rent homes because of Palestinian laws and threats against any Palestinian who rents or sells land to Jews:

And as I explained at the time, this is not the reason.

1) Most Jewish residents of those areas don’t want to live in Arab villages, in part because of the living conditions but mostly because of the risk to their lives. Even if they could buy Arab houses they wouldn’t. However many of the Jewish “settlements” are on land that was indeed bought from Arabs despite the PA laws against it.

2) In Hevron and in predominantly Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem there are dedicated zionists who are willing to live there, and who do so either in houses that have been owned by Jews since before those laws, or in houses they manage to buy from Arabs willing to risk it (at a huge premium, of course; in many cases visas are arranged for the sellers and their families to some safe country, and the sale is not announced until they’re safely there). However this doesn’t help, because in this context the definition of a “settlement” is “anywhere a Jew lives in Judæa”, so the moment a Jew moves into a home it becomes a “settlement”, even if it’s one house in an urban neighborhood, surrounded by Arab-occupied houses which are not “settlements”.

Bottom line: Jews in Judæa live in “settlements” because it’s impossible by definition for them to live anywhere else.

    great unknown in reply to Milhouse. | January 28, 2019 at 5:49 pm

    Have you considered that “settlements” includes completely Jewish area such as Beitar, south of Jerusalem; the entire “East Jerusalem” and its environs; most of Ramot, the northern part of Jerusalem; and basically everything that was on the other side of the border pre-67.

    If you don’t agree, try registering a home there is AirBnB.

      Milhouse in reply to great unknown. | January 28, 2019 at 6:08 pm

      Did you bother reading a word I wrote? Or do you even understand the point of this whole article? “Settlements” means anywhere a Jew lives in Judæa. It is impossible for Jews to live there outside “settlements”, not because the PA makes it dangerous for Arabs to sell houses there, but because the moment a Jew moves into a house it becomes a “settlement”. Now tell me what point you imagine you’re making.

Speaking of Hevron, some good news for a change: with an election staring him in the face Netanyahu has finally, after 13 years in office (counting his first term), decided to kick the TIPH activists out. These “international observers” have been openly collaborating with the Arabs and harassing the Jewish residents for decades, and every six months Israel has dutifully renewed their mandate, for no good reason at all. Soon they’ll finally be gone — unless Netanyahu goes squishy under pressure again and changes his mind.

    4th armored div in reply to Milhouse. | January 28, 2019 at 7:08 pm

    In July in a TIPH member who took part in a tour of the Breaking the Silence organization in Tel Rumeida in Hevron slapped a 10-year-old Jewish boy. The member was arrested and forced to leave Israel by the Foreign Ministry.

    A few weeks later, Netanyahu ordered the TIPH commander to be summoned for clarification by the Foreign Ministry following publication of footage on Arutz Sheva in which foreign observers are seen puncturing the tires of a car belonging to Jewish Hevron resident of Elad Fass.

      And those are just two incidents out of dozens over the last 20+ years. It’s appalling that it’s taken this long for an Israeli government to finally summon the fortitude to stop renewing their mandate, and even that’s only happening because of the election, if indeed it does happen at all.

      And the sad thing is that the squish Netanyahu remains the only sane choice available; if G-d forbid a left-wing government emerges from the election (led by whom? Gantz? Lapid?) the first thing it will do is invite TIPH back.