Class-action lawsuit against Airbnb over settlement ban

Jewish residents of Judea and Samaria file lawsuit alleging discrimination after Airbnb blacklists them.

Gary Willig,

Airbnb
Airbnb
Reuters

A class-action lawsuit was filed against Airbnbafter the online rental marketplace dropped all listings in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria.

The petition, submitted to the Jerusalem District Court, argued that removing or restricting access only to ads of apartments offered for rent in Jewish homes located in Judea and Samaria constitutes severe discrimination on the basis of place of residence and country of origin.

The petitioner, Mayanit Rabinowitz, is a resident of the town of Kida in the Shilo Valley. According to her, until recently, hundreds of accommodation units in Judea and Samaria were offered on the company's website, including her own guest rooms.

Mayanit said that she learned of the Airbnb decision only from the articles published in the media, since the company had never contacted her and had not warned her of her intention to restrict her access to apartments located in the settlements.

The petition was submitted be Adv. Aviel Flint and Assaf Shubinsky, partners in the office of Yossi Levy & Co., in cooperation with Dr. Hagai Vinitzky, who served as a member of the Justice Ministry's regulation committee for Judea and Samaria and author of "Land Law and International Law in Judea and Samaria."

"From Airbnb's point of view, it was much more important to 'run' quickly to the media and tell about its decision, instead of first informing the people that it was going to harm them or even warning them of its intention to do so," the petition states

"In contrast to the ambiguous manner in which Airbnb tries to present the matter, as if it were a resolution relating to 'conflict zones', which stems from a careful and specific examination of each case, in practice this policy is directed solely against those who live in Israeli settlements in Judea and Samaria."

The suit further notes that there are dozens, if not hundreds of conflict zones around the world where Airbnb continues to list properties without applying any of the restrictions applied to Jews in Judea and Samaria. For example, the petition notes that Chinese-occupied Tibet and Turkish-occupied northern Cyprus, continue to have listings on Airbnb.

"Airbnb has no policy relating to conflict zones around the world, and it has a policy regarding settlements in the State of Israel, and only to them," the petition continued. "Airbnb can rent out apartments to women or minorities, and rent apartments in war or disputed areas and apartments in areas where tens of thousands of people have been expelled from their homes. The only thing that is forbidden to be a settler in the State of Israel. That is an unforgivable crime according to Airbnb, and justifies an immediate expulsion from the site."

Finally, the applicant contends that the manner in which the announcement was made by Airbnb, unilaterally, without prior notice and without individual appeal to the members of the group, constitutes "a manifest lack of good faith." According to her, the announcement was published simultaneously in almost every possible media outlet, in a manner that raises serious concerns that "this is a well orchestrated public relations exercise."

"It is hard to shake off the impression that Airbnb took advantage of this decision, for the purpose of a global public relations round at the expense of the group members."




top