Airbnb, the popular site that allows homeowners to list their homes and travelers to stay in homes, rooms, or apartments while traveling instead of conventional hotels, is being sued for discrimination on religious grounds. Eighteen Americans are suing the company over its removing listings from the West Bank region occupied by Israel. The Americans that are suing are mostly dual Israeli citizens who live in the area.
The lawsuit says that Airbnb’s delisting of the properties affects renters who are Israeli, Jewish or both. Both the lawsuit and Airbnb did not provide a breakdown by religion or nationality of the affected listings and users. It’s unknown if any non-Jewish Israelis or Palestinians rent out their property there. The lawsuit asks the court to declare that the actions by Airbnb violate the Fair Housing Act. It also acts to provide compensation for lost revenue and cover legal fees, in addition to blocking any future discrimination against Israelis and Jews.
A spokesperson for the company said that he believes the lawsuit will fail in court because the company has over 20,000 hosts in Israel. The spokesperson also noted that many multinational US-based hotels don’t offer any accommodations in these areas.
This lawsuit was filed on November 28 in Delaware in federal court, but there was also another lawsuit filed in an Israeli court on November 23 that initially named a single home renter in the area. The Israeli government encouraged those who are renting out homes to sue Airbnb following the announcement that occurred on November 19 about Airbnb reevaluating its policies and pulling the listings. During the announcement, Airbnb said that it was reevaluating policies about allowing hosts to list properties in areas where the listings could contribute to human suffering and send a political message by being offered. Hosts are those who use the service to list out rentals. Many critics have called this announcement hypocritical since the West Bank was the first, and so far the only region where it has withdrawn listings under these new guidelines. Previously, the company did remove listings in Crimea because of international sanctions.
About 200 listings are going to be removed and 11 plaintiffs in the lawsuit said they have rented out their properties with Airbnb before and want to continue to do so. The other plaintiffs say they want to rent in the West Bank in the future. The United Nations views settlements in the West Bank as illegal, and the US has criticized Israel for allowing and encouraging these settlements in the past.