(JTA) — In a reversal of a 2018 policy announcement, Airbnb will not remove West Bank settlement listings from its website.
The policy change came in a court settlement Monday between the vacation rental company and a dozen American Jewish plaintiffs who had sued the company, organized by Shurat Hadin-Israel Law Center, a pro-Israel law organization. A copy of the settlement obtained by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency says that Airbnb will now allow rentals in both Palestinian areas and Israeli settlements of the West Bank.
“Airbnb takes no position on the Host-Plaintiffs’ claims, or others’ claims, to legal title to the properties on which the accommodations are located,” the court settlement reads. “All listings for accommodations located in the Affected Region [the West Bank] will at all times be permitted on its platform, subject to applicable laws, rules, and regulations.”
Airbnb announced in November that it would remove some 200 rental listings in West Bank settlements because it contended that the settlements “are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.” The movement to boycott Israel saw the decision as a victory.
But Airbnb never actually removed the listings. And about a week after the decision, Shurat Hadin organized the suit on behalf of a dozen American Jewish families, most of whom own properties in West Bank settlements. The suit was filed under the Fair Housing Act, which was meant to prevent discrimination against minorities in the United States. Because Airbnb is based in the United States, it must adhere to the act in all its listings worldwide.
The plaintiffs claimed that Airbnb was discriminating against them for being Jewish, given that it still allowed listings by Palestinian Muslims and Christians in the West Bank.
“As a provider of a service to the public, Airbnb is not permitted to refuse to provide services to selected religious group to engineer who it thinks should be allowed to live where,” Robert Tolchin, the plaintiffs’ attorney, said in a statement. “We are gratified that the legal process has worked and that as a result of the case we filed Airbnb came to recognize the mistake it had made and changed their policy.”
According to the court settlement, Airbnb does not support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement targeting 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 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.”