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As an avid Airbnb fan and frequent guest who has traveled the world over using the mega hosting platform for a number of years now, I was beyond livid when I learned of the company’s November 19th decision to remove all listings of Jewish homeowners in Judea and Samaria. This blatantly discriminatory action affects approximately 200 hosts. In response, Israel said it would act to restrict Airbnb in the country, and encouraged affected Airbnb hosts to file lawsuits under Israel’s anti-boycott law.
There is no doubt in my mind that this decision is replete with explosive political overtones and at this juncture, it begs to be thoroughly examined.
When Airbnb declared that it would amend its policy regarding home rentals in what they perceive to be the “occupied territories” it was a clear indicator that their objective was to economically bankrupt and isolate Jews. In the past, Airbnb supported the principle that such rentals were legal, but that has all changed. We wonder precisely what prompted this corporate behemoth to launch this boycott.
According to a November 19th article in Fortune magazine, Airbnb’s actions came a day before the planned release of a report from the patently anti-Israel organization Human Rights Watch. The left-wing organization had previously decried Israel’s building or allowing settlements in the “West Bank” (the term that they use for what is now and has been known for thousands of years as Judea and Samaria) which the group labels “illegal.”
In a November 25th enlightening article entitled, “The New Israel Fund Encouraged the Airbnb Boycott of Israel” that appeared on the Israel National News web site, author Ronn Torossian writes, ” Along with its stated policy of endorsing a boycott against Israel, non-profit organizations financed by the New Israel Fund (NIF) were integral to influencing Airbnb’s decision to remove listings for homes in “Israeli settlements in the Occupied West Bank;” which we all know are towns, villages and cities. This includes “East” Jerusalem; our eternal, undivided capital.
As a report by NGO Watch noted, “This change in policy was a clear result of a coordinated and well-financed campaign targeting the company by NGOs involved in BDS (boycott, divestment, and sanctions) campaigns against Israel, led by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), in concert with the UN Human Rights Council (HRC), at least three Israeli groups, and the Palestinian Authority. The funders responsible for this campaign include a number of European governments as well as the US-based Rockefeller Brothers Fund.”
I find it most interesting that the New Israel Fund and Airbnb call the “City by the Bay” known as San Francisco home for their respective offices. Truth to be told, I would not be surprised to learn that NIF members are also in the employ of Airbnb and that relations are close between the two organizations.
On November 23rd, JTA reported that an Israeli citizen who resides in the settlement of Kida sued the Airbnb hosting platform on discriminatory grounds over its controversial decision.
The lawsuit, which cites Israel’s anti-discrimination laws, was filed with the Jerusalem District Court on behalf of Ma’anit Rabinovich.
“The law in Israel forbids discrimination based on the place where you live, and what Airbnb has done is by all means discrimination based on the place where you live,” said attorney Aviel Flint, a partner in the law firm Yossi Levy & Co. which is representing Rabinovich.
The case is based on a 2000 law against discrimination in products and services, which was amended in 2017 to include place of residence.
The suit also names the Israeli NGO Kerem Navot, which along with Human Rights Watch published an in-depth report on Airbnb and on Booking.com, which offers hotel hosting. It called on both companies to remove the listings in the so-called “West Bank.”
Several weeks ago, Airbnb representatives including its Vice President Chris Lahan met with Israel’s tourism minister, Yariv Levin, in Jerusalem. In its statement, the company said meetings with parties involved in the conflict had given it a deeper understanding of the “incredibly complex and emotional issue”.
“Airbnb communicated that we are developing the tools needed to implement our policy and that process includes continuing our dialogue with the Government of Israel and other stakeholders,” the company said.
Haaretz reported that the company said its settlement policy “will not be implemented”. Several other Israeli media outlets also reported on the supposed reversal, which they said had been welcomed by the Israeli tourism ministry.
As it turns out, nothing could be further from the truth!!
On December 18th, Al Jazeera and the Washington Free Beacon reported that Airbnb has denied a claim by Israel’s tourism minister that it had reversed a decision to stop listings in the alleged “illegal settlements in the West Bank.”
Airbnb said that the comment was inaccurate, and reiterating that it is developing the tools needed to implement its policy while it continues to talk to stakeholders. If this isn’t double talk or classic flip-flopping then I am a monkey’s uncle.
Airbnb’s original statement in November announcing its boycott of 200 Israeli hosts in Judea and Samaria remains on their web site.
On December 28th, the Jerusalem Post reported that the community of Mitzpeh Yericho held a street naming ceremony to honor Bal Harbour, Florida Mayor Gabriel Groisman for his “courageous stand against anti-Semitism and discrimination facing Airbnb’s policies banning usage in Judea and Samaria.” The event was conducted by Mitzpe Yericho Mayor Aliza Pilichowski and community members.
The report went on to say that Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan lambasted Airbnb’s decision as “racist” and “anti-Semitic” and argued that it applied a different standard to the Jewish state than to other disputed territories around the world.
So folks, the battle is on as Airbnb has most definitely not reversed its decision as was erroneously reported by Haaretz.
At this juncture, I asked Haaretz to amend their story as people are becoming quite confused about Airbnb’s real position on this issue. Thus far, I have received no response.
To anyone who has eyes to see and ears that hear, it is clear that Airbnb is using the same playbook that the Nazis used when they crafted the Nuremberg laws to discriminate and economically strangle the Jews.
As a person that despises remaining silent in the face of overt and odious bigotry and discrimination, I decided to make a donation to Shurat HaDin, (an Israeli human rights group which has taken up various pro-Israeli causes).
In a phone interview with Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, (an Israeli attorney, human rights activist and the founder of Shurat HaDin Israeli Law Center), I was told that a lawsuit has been filed in Jerusalem District Court against Human Rights Watch for its involvement in the Airbnb move. Moreover, Ms. Leitner said that another lawsuit had been filed in Delaware on November 28th against Airbnb on behalf of 12 plaintiffs (American Jews who own homes in Judea and Samaria and are being discriminated against). She is currently seeking more plaintiffs in the case to strengthen its legal muscle in the courts.
Now, is the time to step forward; to add your name to this landmark case that seeks legal restitution for Airbnb’s blatantly anti-Semitic position. Let us not be silent, lest the other corporate haters get the message that banning Jews will not be met with fierce resistance.
And the wonderful news is that from now until the end of this year, every donation made to Shurat HaDin will continue to be tripled as they strive to reach a goal of $350,000 to support this historic and groundbreaking lawsuit. I exhort you, your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers and synagogue members to reach into your pockets to make a real difference.
For further information please visit the Shurat HaDin web site at: [email protected]
Ronald J. Edelstein is the owner of Ron Properties, LLC, a real estate development and management company in New York City. He has been a lifelong Jewish activist and is a vocal advocate for Israel.