As part of a federal court settlement agreement. Airbnb appears to be settling all the litigations against it over the discriminatory policy.
We previously covered the policy implemented by Airbnb last November to ban listings from Jewish settlements in Judea and Samaria (the “West Bank”).
That amounted to a de facto Jewish boycott because Jews are forbidden under Palestinian Authority law and practice from buying homes outside the settlements, and Palestinians could be killed for selling or renting to a Jew.
That policy arguably violated U.S. law as applied to Americans who wanted to list their West Bank properties as well as Israeli law.
See these posts for background:
One of the federal lawsuits, pending in the District of Delaware, has been settled, and Airbnb agreed to rescind the policy. Shurat HaDin Law Center released this statement:
We just scored a tremendous victory in the lawsuit we launched against Airbnb! The online hosting platform has agreed to completely retract its policy of delisting Jewish homes in Judea & Samaria. This is an important and precedential decision in the battle against the racist BDS movement.
Over the past few weeks we have been negotiating a settlement agreement with the hospitality giant Airbnb to rescind its discriminatory policy redlining Jewish-owned properties in the Judea and Samaria region. That policy, announced in November 2018, had banned Jewish property owners in Judea and Samaria from listing properties on Airbnb, while allowing Muslim and Christian property owners to list properties in the same area. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Airbnb has agreed to repeal the discriminatory policy, thereby resolving the discrimination lawsuit.
The plaintiffs, a group of twelve Jewish American families had filed a civil rights lawsuit against Airbnb in the United States Federal District Court for the District of Delaware. The lawsuit was captionedSliber, et al. v. Airbnb, 1:18-cv-01884-RGA. The lawsuit was brought in Delaware because Airbnb is incorporated in Delaware. In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs alleged that the policy of the San Francisco-based internet hospitality company discriminated against them based upon their religion.
Our lawsuit was filed under the Fair Housing Act, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, (“FHA”) 42 U.S.C.§ 3601, et seq., a federal statute which safeguards against discrimination in the housing sales and rental markets. While the properties were located in Judea and Samaria, the plaintiffs alleged that the discrimination was being committed by Airbnb, which is located in the United States and is bound to follow federal policies of non-discrimination wherever it operates in the world. The plaintiffs asked that the court enjoin Airbnb from discriminatory practices against Jewish homeowners and sought compensation for any lost rental income from Airbnb.
The lawsuit had been spearheaded by the Israeli human rights law organization Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center in Israel. The families were represented in the litigation by New York attorney Robert J. Tolchin, Esq., Delaware counsel David Eagle, Esq., of Wilmington, Delaware and myself.
When Airbnb publicly announced its redlining policy barring rentals of Jewish-owned properties in November, 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. The plaintiff homeowners, however, dispute that contention and contend that all the properties are legal. Further, the plaintiffs asserted that Airbnb had succumbed to pressure from the extremist Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (“BDS”) propaganda movement which seeks to delegitimize Israel and challenges its right to exist.
Under the settlement agreement, Airbnb has agreed to adopt a neutral policy towards all properties in the region, allowing all homeowners to list their houses for rental on its web platform regardless of their religion, race or national origin.
The policy Airbnb announced last November was abject discrimination against Jewish users of the website. The rescinding of Airbnb’s discriminatory policy is, thus, a powerful defeat for the anti-Israel boycott movement. BDS is an anti-Semitic 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. No outside party can decide for Israel what its legitimate borders will be or where Jews will be permitted to live.
May we go from strength to strength,
President of Shurat-HaDin
I’m informed that Airbnb is settling all the lawsuits and arbitrations against it. David Abrams, the Executive Director of the Zionist Advocacy Center and the attorney for claimants in two of the arbitration claims, provided this statement to us:
“I applaud AirBNB for addressing this issue promptly; Conflicting claims in Judea and Samaria present delicate issues and it is good for business and will promote peace if companies follow AirBNB’s lead in doing business in the disputed territories without restrictions other than those imposed by law. I look forward to making us of AirBNB on my next trip overseas and I hope other members of the pro-Israel community will join me.”
Airbnb posted this statement on its website:
Today, Airbnb is announcing that we have settled all lawsuits that were brought by hosts and potential hosts and guests who objected to a policy the company recently announced concerning listings in disputed areas.
Under the settlement terms, Airbnb will not move forward with implementing the removal of listings in the West Bank from the platform. We understand the complexity of the issue that was addressed in our previous policy announcement, and we will continue to allow listings throughout all of the West Bank, but Airbnb will take no profits from this activity in the region. Any profits generated for Airbnb by any Airbnb host activity in the entire West Bank will be donated to non-profit 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.
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. We have always sought to bring people together and will continue to work with our community to achieve this goal.
Airbnb recognizes that there are many other disputed territories around the world. The company will rely upon our previously identified framework to evaluate these areas. If Airbnb determines homes — the core of our business — are central to ongoing tensions, we will adopt the same approach of allowing listings and donating Airbnb’s profits generated by Airbnb host activity in the region to non-profit organizations dedicated to humanitarian aid that serve people in different parts of the world.
Why now? I can only speculate, but I suspect it has to do with Airbnb’s IPO plans.
This a big blow to the anti-Israel boycott movement, which had touted the Airbnb action as a major victory.
Tough day for @KenRoth @OmarSShakir @hrw. Years of their work pushing #BDS hate vs #Israel to @Airbnb down the tubes, after the company dumped them. Good day for justice, equality, and corporate social responsibility. Thanks to all who joined in struggle. https://t.co/9MEMiT4bqS
— (((Gerald M Steinberg))) (@GeraldNGOM) April 9, 2019
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