Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League and the Simon Wiesenthal Center, have applauded Airbnb's decision not to delist properties within the West Bank.
“The Simon Wiesenthal Center, which denounced Airbnb’s initial decision to drop Jewish homeowners living on the West Bank as antisemitic, is pleased that the company has rescinded its ill-conceived political move,” said Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the SWC associate dean and director of Global Social Action. “Airbnb can now return to its mandate of bringing people of all backgrounds together around the world, whatever their nationality, race, or religion.”
"We appreciate that Airbnb and Brian Chesky listened to us and the wider community, and course-corrected on how they implement their listing policy," said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League. "We also welcome their clear rejection of BDS and embrace of the Israeli market."
Airbnb announced on Tuesday that it would rescind its decision to remove ads of Jewish homeowners in Judea and Samaria following a settlement of a Shurat Hadin lawsuit.
The rental giant had said in November 2018 that it would ban Jewish property owners living in the West Bank from advertising on its site following objections from groups seeking to boycott Israel.
Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Airbnb has agreed to repeal the discriminatory policy, resolving the discrimination lawsuit Shurat Hadin had filed in a federal court in Delaware on behalf of a group of US citizens.
The company is incorporated in Delaware.
Airbnb said on Tuesday that it would not profit from host activity in the West Bank and would donate the money earned to “nonprofit organizations dedicated to humanitarian aid that serve people in different parts of the world.”
“Airbnb will also implement the same approach for listings in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, two other disputed areas where the company has previously announced that we would take action,” it said. “Airbnb has always opposed the BDS movement. Airbnb has never boycotted Israel, Israeli businesses, or the more than 20,000 Israeli hosts who are active on the Airbnb platform.”
In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs alleged that the policy of the San Francisco-based Internet hospitality company discriminated against them due to their religious background.
The basis of the case was the Fair Housing Act, a US statute which bars discrimination in the housing sales and rental markets.
Though the properties were located in West Bank, the plaintiffs alleged that the discrimination was being committed by Airbnb, which is bound to follow federal policies of non-discrimination wherever it operates in the world, since it is based in the US.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs requested that the court enjoin Airbnb from discriminatory practices against Jewish homeowners and sought compensation for lost rental income.
Due to the pending litigation, Shurat Hadin said that Airbnb had not implemented the announced policy.
In light of the settlement, the NGO said that “the policy will never be implemented and the property owners have been saved from suffering any losses.”
In addition to Shurat Hadin, New York attorney Robert J. Tolchin and Delaware counsel David Eagle helped manage the case.
The NGO said that, “when Airbnb publicly announced its redlining policy barring rentals of Jewish-owned properties... It stated it would no longer agree to list these homes due to claims that such properties are located in Palestinian-owned territories illegally occupied by Israeli settlers.”
However, the plaintiffs “contend that all the properties are legal. Further, the plaintiffs asserted that Airbnb had succumbed to pressure from the extremist Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions propaganda movement which seeks to delegitimize Israel and challenges its right to exist.”
Shurat Hadin president Nitsana Darshan-Leitner stated, “The rescinding of Airbnb’s discriminatory policy is... A powerful defeat for the anti-Israel boycott movement. BDS is an antisemitic campaign which purports to care about human rights but whose real goal is to completely replace the Jewish state with a Palestinian one.”
“Other international companies need to learn the lessons from Airbnb’s mistake and understand that boycotting Israel and discriminating against Jews are unlawful acts, which will ultimately result in dire legal consequences, public condemnations and embarrassment,” she added.
In Washington, Representative Ted Deutch issued the following statement: "Since this misguided policy was first announced, I have engaged with Airbnb executives and urged them to reconsider their misguided and discriminatory plan. I applaud the company's move to reverse that position. Just like other boycott efforts, applying a double standard to Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank does nothing for the peace process, and in fact harms economic opportunities of both Israelis and Palestinians. I hope this reversal serves as a reminder for other multinational companies that taking action that discriminates and plays into the hands of the anti-Israel BDS movement is wrong, harmful, and bad for business.”
Back in Israel, Prof. Gerald Steinberg, president of NGO Monitor, said, "the ill-advised Airbnb decision to delist Israeli hosts was the product of NGO pressure and BDS campaigns, and the company's reversal is a major defeat, particularly for Human Rights Watch. As NGO Monitor and others conveyed to Airbnb, the HRW campaign was morally, legally and economically wrong.
"When Airbnb officials belatedly performed the due diligence they should have done much earlier, they found that HRW's claims on Israel and the conflict have no basis in fact or law. NGO Monitor is proud to have contributed to this result," he concluded.
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