The logo of Airbnb is displayed at an Airbnb event in Tokyo, Japan, June 14, 2018..
(photo credit: REUTERS/ISSEI KATO)
Four attorneys filed a class action suit against Airbnb in Jerusalem District Court on Thursday to protest the US-based company’s decision to drop listings in West Bank settlements from its vacation rental website that hosts ads from 191 countries.
“The law in Israel forbids discrimination based on the place where you live, and what Airbnb has done is by all means discrimination based on the place where you live,” said attorney Aviel Flint, a partner in the law firm Yossi Levy & Co.
This is a case of Israeli law and not antisemitism or politics, Flint told The Jerusalem Post.
The case is based on a 2000 law against discrimination in products and services, which was amended in 2017 to include place of residence.
The suit also names the Israeli NGO Kerem Navot, which along with Human Rights Watch, published an in-depth report on Airbnb and a similar website called Booking.com. It called on both companies to remove the listings. The NGOs argued that Israel’s presence in the West Bank
was illegal under international law and that in some cases, the rooms were on land that belonged to private Palestinian landowners.
The suit was filed on behalf of Ma’anit Rabinovich, a resident of the Kida outpost, who has rented guests rooms through Airbnb and heard of the issue through the media without any notification from the company.
“From Airbnb’s point of view, it was a lot more important ‘to run’ quickly to the media and tell them about its decision, instead of first of all informing all those people that were about to be hurt or even to warn them about their intention to do it,” the court petition stated.
Flint said he expects that the 200 people in Judea and Samaria who use Airbnb
will join the suit.
The court petition stated that the discrimination in this case was “particularly grave and outrageous” because Airbnb has pulled listings from only one disputed territory, the West Bank, while continuing to list rentals in other places of contention such as Tibet and northern Cyprus.
The dispute between Russia and Georgia involved military invasions, and despite that, Airbnb still offered 300 apartments there for rent, the petition stated.
The petition quoted explanations from Airbnb that it respects local laws and customs. “Airbnb recognizes that some jurisdictions permit, or require, distinctions among individuals based on factors such as national origin, gender, marital status or sexual orientation, and it does not require hosts to violate local laws or take actions that may subject them to legal liability,” the company has stated.
“Airbnb will provide additional guidance and adjust this nondiscrimination policy to reflect such permissions and requirements in the jurisdictions where they exist,” the company further explained.
One would conclude, the petition stated, that “Airbnb has no policies regarding regions of conflict in the world. It has policies regarding settlements.”
The other attorneys in the case are Asaf Shubinsky, Chen Shomart and Hagai Vinitzky.
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