A group of Israeli-Americans has filed a lawsuit in the United States federal court against the vacation rental property website Airbnb, accusing it of discriminating through its decision this month to delist properties in Israel’s Judea and Samaria.
The 18 plaintiffs filed the matter in the District Court for the District of Delaware, alleging the company of violating of the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, a federal statute that safeguards against discrimination in housing sales and the rental market, in accordance with the Fair Housing Act, Title VIII of the 1968 Civil Rights Act.
The lawsuit was backed by Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center and the plaintiffs are represented by New York attorney Robert Tolchin, Shurat HaDin director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and Delaware lawyer David Eagle.
“Airbnb’s new discriminatory policy has made it the poster child for the racist BDS movement,” said Darshan-Leitner. “These Jewish American property owners were shocked by Airbnb’s blacklisting of their homes and intend to legally fight this new hateful policy.”
“For centuries anti-Semites have sought to dictate where Jews can live, where they can travel, and what businesses they are permitted to engage in,” she continued. “Airbnb’s redlining policy is illegal and discriminates against these families based solely upon their religion.”
“Imagine if Airbnb decided not to service Muslim homes in Oakland because they opposed growth of the Muslim community there. Nobody would tolerate that for a minute,” said Tolchin. “Yet that is exactly what Airbnb’s policy is for Jews in the Judea and Samaria region. As a provider of a service to the public, Airbnb is not permitted to refuse to provide services to selected religious group to engineer who it thinks should be allowed to live where.”
In a statement, Airbnb said: “Major U.S.-based multinational hotels do not offer accommodations in these settlements and under our policy, listings in Israeli settlements in the West Bank will no longer be active.”
“We don’t believe this lawsuit will succeed in court, but we know that people will disagree with our decision and appreciate their perspective,” they added. “Israel is a special place with special people and we are honored to have more than 20,000 hosts in Israel who welcome visitors from all over the world and continue to do all we can to support people to people travel.”
Airbnb mentioned that “Our announcement applies only to the approximately 200 Airbnb listings in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and not to other areas, including East Jerusalem and Golan Heights.”
“ZOA hopes that this and other lawsuits being brought against Airbnb, and the phone calls and emails from ZOA and all our friends, will persuade Airbnb to end its outrageous, unlawful, anti-Semitic, discriminatory policy of blacklisting Jewish homes in Judea/Samaria,” said the organization’s president, Mort Klein.
In Jerusalem District Court last week, a group of Jewish residents from Judea and Samaria filed a class-action lawsuit against Airbnb.