Israeli hosts in the West Bank say the company’s decision to remove the settlements from the website is “outrageous discrimination.”
A lawsuit has been filed against the Airbnb flat rental service, accusing the company of discrimination for delisting properties located in Israeli settlements on Palestinian soil.
Airbnb has removed some 200 homes in the settlements, saying that “companies should not profit on lands where people have been displaced.”
The plaintiff, Ma’anit Rabinovich, from the West Bank settlement of Kida, who earns his living by providing guest room rentals, says that the Airbnb move “represents especially grave, offensive and outrageous discrimination.”
Rabinovich’s lawsuit, presented at Jerusalem District Court, claims some $2,573 in personal damages, according to a Reuters report. The lawsuit is class-action and would seek an as-yet-unspecified sum for others in the same situation.
“The company’s decision is in effect directed solely against Israeli citizens living in the settlements, the petitioner claims, and this is severe, especially outrageous discrimination,” Rabinovich’s lawyers said in a statement.
“(It is) part of the long war being conducted by organizations (of which a clear majority are anti-Semitic) against the State of Israel in its entirety, and against Israelis living in settlements in particular,” the statement claims.
Most world powers view the illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank as a violation of international law and as an occupation. Officials within the independent Palestinian state welcomed Airbnb’s move.
“Airbnb took a decision in the right direction to stop dealings with Israeli settlements, consistent with international legitimacy,” Wasel Abu Youssef, a Palestine Liberation Organisation official, said in an interview.
The company did not immediately respond to the lawsuit, Reuters reported. In an earlier statement emailed to the news agency on Tuesday, Chris Lehane, Airbnb’s global head of policy and communications, said: “Israel is a special place and our over 22,000 hosts are special people who have welcomed hundreds of thousands of guests to Israel.”
“We understand that this is a hard and complicated issue and we appreciate everyone’s perspective,” he added.
The company’s decision to delist the Israeli settlements applies only to the West Bank, and does not apply to Israel or Golan Heights — a contested territory within neighboring Syria.