(April 9, 2019 / JNS) The online hospitality service Airbnb announced on Tuesday that it has reversed its November decision to blacklist about 200 Jewish-owned properties in Judea and Samaria and has settled all lawsuits.
“Under the settlement terms, Airbnb will not move forward with implementing the removal of listings in the West Bank from the platform,” said the company in a statement. “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.”
Instead, all profits will go towards nonprofit groups “dedicated to humanitarian aid that serve people in different parts of the world.”
“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,” added the company. “We have always sought to bring people together and will continue to work with our community to achieve this goal.”
Alan Dershowitz, constitutional law scholar and professor emeritus at Harvard University Law School, told JNS that he has been in contact with Chris Lehane, Airbnb’s head of global policy and public affairs, urging him to reverse the decision. Following a tour of the West Bank in December, Lehane was apparently “under consideration” at the time.
“Let’s hope they stick with it,” said Dershowitz. “Previously, they said they would do it, and they didn’t.”
“It’s a good result,” he added. “I will call Chris Lehane, and congratulate him for doing it and urge him to make sure he keeps it.”
Shurat HaDin Law Center and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations were among the pro-Israel groups that celebrated the reversal after months of ongoing pressure from the pro-Israel and Jewish communities.
“This is a powerful defeat for the anti-Israel boycott movement,” they said in a statement. “Other international companies need to learn [similar] lessons.”
“This a critical decision given the high visibility of Airbnb and the attention given to its earlier announcement,” said Conference of Presidents chairman Arthur Stark and executive vice chairman and CEO Malcolm Hoenlein. “The concern was that it was not only discriminatory, but that it would set a precedent for other companies and be portrayed as an endorsement of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions [BDS] movement.”
“We applaud the individuals and organizations who spoke out against this policy and placed pressure on Airbnb with a unified voice, and congratulate the plaintiffs who filed lawsuits challenging the legality of the policy, and the states that went on record that application of the policy would disqualify Airbnb from eligibility for state contracts,” StandWithUs co-founder and CEO Roz Rothstein told JNS. “This outcome demonstrates that companies wishing to engage in discriminatory boycotts against Israel will be the ones most harmed by such a decision.”
“[email protected]’s policy was discrimination against Israelis,” tweeted the American Israel Public Affairs Committee. “Today they reversed this misguided policy and announced they are opposed to the BDS movement. We must call BDS what it is: anti-Israel, anti-peace, & damaging to U.S. interests.”
Sarah Stern, founder and president of the Endowment for Middle East Truth, told JNS that Tuesday’s decision represents “a tremendous victory against the prejudicial and discriminatory policies of the BDS movement,” and that “other companies who have decided to support the BDS movement would be wise to take heed.”
She said that “Muslim and Christian owners of properties in Judea and Samaria were clearly allowed to list their properties on the site, while Jewish home owners had been prohibited from doing so, which is clearly discriminatory against those who practice Judaism.”
B’nai B’rith International also commended the decision, saying that its “earlier, highly discriminatory action only served to embolden Palestinian rejectionists and gave encouragement to the BDS movement aimed at delegitimizing Israel.”
Lawfare Project executive director Brooke Goldstein stated her message for Airbnb: “Shame on Airbnb for thinking that it could, even for a second, implement a policy that so blatantly discriminated against Jews and still do business in the United States.”
Mort Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, said the decision was a “necessary and important retraction.”
“Airbnb has done the only right thing, and rescinded its earlier decision to stigmatize and target Jewish properties in this way,” he told JNS.
“We appreciate that Airbnb and [its co-founder] Brian Chesky listened to us and the wider community, and course-corrected on how they implement their listing policy. We also welcome their clear rejection of BDS and embrace of the Israeli market,” said Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League.