Rep. Alan Clemmons delivers an address from the steps of the South Carolina Statehouse in a speech given via satellite to the Restoring Courage rally in Jerusalem in 2011.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Hundreds of legislators from states across America sent a letter over the weekend to Airbnb, condemning its decision last month to delist properties located in Jewish settlements in the West Bank from its website.
The letter was titled “State Legislators to Airbnb: Don’t Restrict Free-Market Enterprise.” It was initiated by South Carolina State Representative Alan Clemmons, who is close to outgoing US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, the state’s previous governor.
Clemmons is the incoming national chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council, America’s largest nonpartisan, voluntary membership organization of state legislators dedicated to the principles of limited government, free markets and federalism. Comprised of nearly one-quarter of the country’s state legislators and stakeholders from across the policy spectrum, ALEC members include policy makers representing more than 60 million Americans and businesses employing more than 30 million people.
“This abhorrent decision is both discriminatory in nature and bad as a matter of business,” the legislators wrote. “Under this policy, an American owner of a rental property located in a majority-Jewish community in the West Bank would be barred from listing on Airbnb.
“In addition to discriminating against Jewish persons, we note that this policy would also prevent Christians from staying in these communities when visiting important heritage sites in places such as Bethlehem and Nazareth. Yet at the same time, Airbnb continues to welcome the listing of a property in immediately neighboring Palestinian Authority-controlled locales, where the PA in fact violently enforces a discriminatory policy barring all land sales to Jews.”
The legislators complained that Airbnb has singled out Israel alone for this treatment. While the company has stated that, “each situation is unique and requires a case-by-case approach,” the legislators noted that so far the only country facing delisting is the Jewish state, while Airbnb continues to list properties in other disputed regions, such as Western Sahara, northern Cyprus, Kashmir and Tibet.
“We stand unabashedly with Israel and remain firmly opposed to discrimination against Jews, Christians, and all other persons,” the legislators wrote. “As state government officials, we wish to put Airbnb on notice that they have run afoul of public policy, and likely the law in many jurisdictions, and that we will be pursuing action to protect our citizens and state economies from its discriminatory policy. It is our hope that Airbnb will quickly realize that it has erred in adopting its new policy, and consequently reverse its decision to engage in discrimination.”
ALEC legislators have been a key part of the federal government’s efforts to halt BDS groups from using commercial discrimination and intimidation to coerce companies into ignoring the benefits of free market relations with Israel. Clemmons was the first to pass an anti-BDS bill in South Carolina, and more than half the US states now have such measures in place.
“Anti-BDS laws are good as a matter of economic policy, public policy and foreign policy, which is why they have been passed by overwhelming majorities on a bi-partisan basis,” Clemmons said. “We stand proudly with Israel, and will now help lead the effort to enforce state laws and use our authority to oppose the discriminatory business policy recently announced by Airbnb. We hope that the company will ultimately arrive at a better point of judgment and reverse its decision.”
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