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Airbnb Reverses Ban on Israeli Homes in West Bank, Says it Never Supported BDS

04-10-2019

JERUSALEM, Israel - Airbnb has reversed its decision to ban home listings in Israeli settlement communities in historic Judea and Samaria, also known as the West Bank.

Airbnb announced the policy change after a court settlement Monday between the hospitality service and several American Jewish plaintiffs who sued the company. 

Last November, the company vowed to "remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians."

A copy of the settlement obtained by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency says that Airbnb will now allow rentals in both Palestinian Arab communities and Israeli towns in Judea and Samaria. However, the company said it will not profit off of the listings and will instead donate the money to humanitarian organizations.

The plaintiffs filed the lawsuit under the Fair Housing Act, which prohibits housing discrimination against minorities in the US. The plaintiffs, who are American but own property in Judea and Samaria, argued that Airbnb discriminated against them for being Jewish, while Christians and Muslims were still allowed to post rental properties in the West Bank.

Airbnb objected to accusations that it intended to alienate its Jewish customers and shot down claims that it supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

"Airbnb recognizes that its decision to apply its Policy to Subject Listings in the Affected Region has been met with strong objections by some members of the Airbnb community as well as other individuals and groups supportive of Israel," the settlement document reads. "Some have even sought to associate Airbnb with the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions ("BDS") movement. Airbnb is clear that it does not intend, and has never intended, to align itself with the BDS movement or to otherwise position the company as adverse to any segment of its community."

Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, president of Shurat Hadin, the law firm that represented the Jewish plaintiffs said other companies need to take Airbnb's lead.

"Other international companies need to learn the lessons from Airbnb's mistake and understand that boycotting Israel and discriminating against Jews are unlawful acts, which will ultimately result in dire legal consequences, public condemnations and embarrassment," Darshan-Leitner said.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said the state would boycott Airbnb over its policy. Now, Desantis applauds the company for its reversal.

"I am encouraged to hear that @Airbnb will not move forward with its policy that would eliminate the listings of Israeli properties. Florida will never support companies that discriminate against Israel," he said.

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