A group of Israeli-American citizens has filed a civil-rights lawsuit against Airbnb in the United States, alleging the company has enacted a policy of discrimination based on religion due to its recent decision to remove West Bank settlement listings from its vacation rental property website.The lawsuit was filed in the District Court for the District of Delaware under the Fair Housing Act, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, a federal statute that safeguards against discrimination in housing sales and the rental market.The lawsuit asks that the court enjoin Airbnb from discriminatory practices against Israel-Jewish homeowners and seeks monetary compensation for ongoing lost rental income from Airbnb.
The plaintiffs are 12 Jewish American citizens who own properties in Israel and one US citizen who has utilized Airbnb’s services to rent properties in the affected areas. The lawsuit was organized by Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center and is being represented by New York attorney Robert J. Tolchin, Shurat HaDin director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner and David Eagle from Wilmington, Delaware.Airbnb, according to the plaintiffs, has caved to pressure from the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement with its decision to ban Jewish homes in the West Bank from the rental site. They pointed out that the blacklisting targets only Jewish homeowners, while permitting neighboring homes owned by Muslims and Christians to be listed and rented out on its platform.“Airbnb’s new discriminatory policy has made it the poster child for the racist BDS movement,” Darshan Leitner said. “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 antisemites have sought to dictate where Jews can live, where they can travel, and what businesses they are permitted to engage in. Airbnb’s redlining policy is illegal and discriminates against these families based solely upon their religion.”Tolchin added: “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. 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.”
Israel to turn to U.S. government over Airbnb removal of settlement listings, November 21, 2018 (Reuters)