Illinois governor calls for inquiry of Airbnb over settlements policy

“We find Airbnb’s decision highly disturbing and we are calling on the company to reverse its West Bank decision,” Illinois Governor Rauner said.

Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner (photo credit: LARRY DOWNING/REUTERS)
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner
WASHINGTON -- The governor of Illinois has called on the state's investment board to investigate whether Airbnb's decision to delist Jewish properties in the West Bank violates state and local laws against the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, calling the company's moving "abhorrent and discriminatory" on Thursday.
Illinois was the first state to adopt a model of anti-BDS legislation that conditions state contracts on a company's refusal to engage in boycotts of the Jewish state. That legislation has proven a model for the country, and since it passed in 2015, over 25 states have followed suit.
“We find Airbnb’s decision highly disturbing and we are calling on the company to reverse its West Bank decision,” Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner said. “We are also looking into ways that we can exert pressure on Airbnb to end its prejudicial policy against the Jewish state.”
“We must not— and will not— remain silent when we detect discrimination of the sort being practiced by Airbnb,” Rauner continued. “An investigation— and the scrutiny that accompanies it— could impact the behavior of investors around the country if Airbnb follows through with a reported potential public stock offering and these concerning policies remain in place.”
Israeli officials have called on state and local leaders to respond to Airbnb's controversial move, which the company says came after a careful, two-year review of their economic role in the settler enterprise and the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Airbnb is facing at least three legal cases in the United States over its decision earlier this month to drop settlement listings in the West Bank.
On Monday, an Israeli company Bibliotechnical Blue & White Ltd. located in the Gush Etzion region of the West Bank filed a complaint against Airbnb for discrimination with the American Arbitration Association in New York.
A group of Israeli-American citizens also 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.
Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan asked four states in the US to take action against Airbnb for its decision to remove West Bank settlement listings from its global website advertising vacation rental properties.
In a letter to outgoing Illinois Governor Rauner, he wrote, “Airbnb’s announced policy is especially disturbing when one understands that it is a policy directed only toward Israel.”
“Such a policy has not been applied by the company to any other country or region involved in a national dispute or conflict. This constitutes (one hopes unintentionally) the modern form of an antisemitic price, which applies a double standard to Israel in a way that is not expected or demanded of any other country,” Rauner wrote.
“Following our meeting and your leadership in denouncing the boycott movement, I ask that you consider speaking out against the company’s decision, and taking any other relevant steps, including in relation to commercial dealings between Airbnb, the State of Illinois and its employees,” Erdan wrote.
Tovah Lazaroff and Jerusalem Post Staff contributed to this report.