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 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.
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.
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