The Airbnb vacation rental company announced this week that it would not remove West Bank settlement listings from its website, in a reversal of a policy it set forth in November 2018.
The decision was made in a court settlement Monday between Airbnb and a dozen American Jewish plaintiffs who had sued the company, through the assistance of the pro-Israel Shurat Hadin-Israel Law Center, a pro-Israel law organization.
A copy of the settlement obtained by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency indicates that Airbnb will allow rentals in both Palestinian areas and Israeli settlements of the West Bank.
“Airbnb takes no position on the Host-Plaintiffs’ claims, or others’ claims, to legal title to the properties on which the accommodations are located,” the court settlement reads. “All listings for accommodations located in the Affected Region [the West Bank] will at all times be permitted on its platform, subject to applicable laws, rules, and regulations.”
Airbnb had announced in November that it would remove some 200 rental listings in West Bank settlements, areas which it said “are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians” – but it never actually removed the listings. Shurat Hadin organized the lawsuit under the US Fair Housing Act, on behalf of the Jewish American families, many of whom have properties in the West Bank.
WJC CEO and Executive Vice President Robert Singer sent a letter to Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky in late November, expressing the WJC’s deep concern over Airbnb’s decision to remove and ban property listings of homes solely situated in Jewish communities in Israel-controlled areas of the West Bank.
The World Jewish Congress is deeply troubled by Airbnb’s decision to remove and ban property listings of homes solely situated in Jewish communities in Israel-controlled areas of the West Bank.
“It is important to recognize that many of the organizations that encouraged Airbnb to take this action are members of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement, otherwise known as BDS, whose agenda is to attack and dismantle the world’s only Jewish State – the State of Israel. In response to this political movement, more than twenty-five US states have passed legislation condemning BDS as antisemitic and racist, making it illegal for US-based companies to support the movement. Here, Airbnb’s acquiescence to BDS merely plays into the hands of those with a sinister agenda, and only makes peace harder to attain,” Singer wrote, adding that it was further concerning that only Israel was penalized, properties in other disputed territories continued to be advertised.
“Therefore, we are forced to consider Airbnb’s decision as unconscionable given this biased nature and request an explanation of the motives behind this decision and implore you to reconsider your actions in the interest of all parties,” Singer wrote.