Airbnb is a global hospitality company pairing homeowners, hosts, wanting to rent out their properties with tourists. They fell to BDS propaganda deciding to boycott, delist, Jewish hosts in Israel. They were sued, sanctioned by one of their biggest markets -the state of Florida – and came under more pressure than they expected.
With revenues in the millions and dreams of going public, Airbnb is now settling a discrimination lawsuit and correcting a big political error.
Delisting Jewish Homeowners
In November 2018 Airbnb announced that it would ban Jewish property owners in Judea and Samaria, also known as the West Bank, from advertising on its site after objections from groups seeking to boycott Israel.
The Airbnb site posted the following announcement.
“We concluded that we should remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank that are at the core of the dispute between Israelis and Palestinians.”
Airbnb would, however, continue to list Arab homes in Arabs neighborhoods in the so-called West Bank.
Airbnb fell for the anti-Israel BDS language. The land is not “occupied.” That term is used by Israel’s enemies.
In April 2018 the U.S. State Department removed the term from references to the Judea and Samaria area east of Jerusalem, but still uses the term “West Bank.”
Shay Alon, Mayor of Beit El near Ramallah said,
“Once again Jews are undergoing selection, and we are not very happy with the boycott by Airbnb. I call on Israelis to come and have a vacation in Judea and Samaria. We have splendid views, clean air, and accommodation that is far better than most of those that you are used to.”
Lawsuits for Discrimination
The delisting of Jewish hosts caused outrage from the anti-Defamation league and others. It also sparked the lawsuit by a group of 12 U.S. – Israeli Jewish property owners. Shurat Hadin, a Televiv legal group that fights BDS and terror financing, was behind the lawsuit with help of U.S attorneys.
“When Airbnb publicly announced its redlining policy barring rentals of Jewish-owned properties… It stated it would no longer agree to list these homes due to claims that such properties are located in Palestinian-owned territories illegally occupied by Israeli settlers.
However, the plaintiffs contend that all the properties are legal. Further, the plaintiffs asserted that Airbnb had succumbed to pressure from the extremist Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions propaganda movement which seeks to delegitimize Israel and challenges its right to exist.”
The plaintiffs claimed the policy was in violation of the U.S. anti-discrimination law Fair Housing Act. Airbnb is a U.S. based company based in San Fransisco.
In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs requested that the court command Airbnb stop discriminatory practices against Jewish homeowners and sought compensation for lost rental income.
Florida Sanctions Airbnb, A Taste of their Own Medicine –
The BDS related policy of Airbnb caused the newly elected governor of Florida, Ron Desantis, to impose sanctions against Airbnb. In January 2018 the Governor barred the reimbursement to State employees for Airbnb rentals when traveling on state business.
Florida is one of several states that have passed strict anti-BDS laws that basically say “If you participate in BDS, you will not do business with this State.”
DeSantis said Airbnb’s actions violate Florida law—House Bill 545, adopted last year—which imposes penalties, including divestment, on companies involved in the “Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement” against Israel.
“We have a moral obligation to oppose the Airbnb policy,” DeSantis said. “It does target Jews specifically. When you target Jews for disfavored treatment, that is the essence of anti-Semitism. In Florida, as long as I’m the governor, BDS will be D.O.A.”
Airbnb Learned a Hard Lesson
Airbnb settled the lawsuit and announced on April 9th, 2019 that it would rescind its decision to remove ads of Jewish homeowners in Judea and Samaria.
“Today, Airbnb is announcing that we have settled all lawsuits that were brought by hosts and potential hosts and guests who objected to a policy the company recently announced concerning listings in disputed areas.
Under the settlement terms, Airbnb will not move forward with implementing the removal of listings in the West Bank from the platform. 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.”
Even though they had participated in it, they are now discrediting the BDS movement. The Boycott, Divest and Sanction (BDS) movement is an Arab based propaganda campaign to delegitimize and economically harm Israel.
Airbnb in an attempt to correct its wrong-doing stated in the press release –
“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. We have always sought to bring people together and will continue to work with our community to achieve this goal.”
A huge defeat to the BDS movement.
As reported by the Jerusalem Post; Shurat Hadin president Nitsana Darshan-Leitner stated;
“The rescinding of Airbnb’s discriminatory policy is… A powerful defeat for the anti-Israel boycott movement. BDS is an antisemitic campaign which purports to care about human rights but whose real goal is to completely replace the Jewish state with a Palestinian one.”
“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.”
BDS has no place in United States Businesses
Israel is a Strategic Partner of the United States. The individual States have strong business dealings with Israel. The passage of anti-BDS laws in various States has issued warnings to those trying economically attack such an important ally and business partner as Israel.
Let this be a warning to other U.S. based corporations or global corporations that want to do business in the United States –
BDS is a lie, an evil anti-Semitic political movement. The U.S. will not stand for any economic or other boycotts of Israel or the Jewish people.
Welcome back Airbnb. The supporters of Israel, those of us who know the truth, can now do business with you again.