Photo Credit: Gershon Elinson / Flash 90
View of the Jewish community of Karmei Tzur, near Hebron in Judea.

A group of 18 Jewish U.S. citizens — including some dual Israeli-U.S. individuals and families — this week filed a lawsuit against Airbnb Inc. in Delaware, where the company in incorporated, charging the firm with discrimination, and violation of American housing laws.

Specifically, the group has accused the vacation rentals firm with religious discrimination over a decision announced November 19 to ban listings of all homes in Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. Homes in Palestinian Authority-controlled areas of Judea and Samaria, and other Arab communities were not included in the company’s ban.

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“Airbnb has made a religion- and nationality-based decision about who can list,” Robert Tolchin, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in an interview with Reuters. “It decided in the United States, ‘We will not list for Jews in the West Bank.’ It should be equal access for all.”

The case, Silber et al v Airbnb Inc, U.S. District Court, District of Delaware, No. 18-01884 , is relevant to the lives of some half a million Israelis who are living in Judea and Samaria, as new springboard for the Boycott, Divest & Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel.

The 18 plaintiffs in the case include Israeli-American families and individuals who said they own or wish to rent affected homes, according to Reuters. They’re seeking injunctive relief and unspecified damages that include compensation for lost rental income.

A separate lawsuit was filed in a Jerusalem court, challenging the company’s policy, on Nov. 22.

They accuse Airbnb of “redlining” Jewish-owned properties, while Muslim and Christian homeowners remain listed with the company — making it clear that Airbnb is taking sides in the territorial conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The San Francisco-based company, however, expressed little concern. “We don’t believe this lawsuit will succeed in court, but we know that people will disagree with our decision and appreciate their perspective,” Airbnb said in a statement.

Former Palestinian Authority chief negotiator Saeb Erekat praised Airbnb’s decision.

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Hana Levi Julian is a Middle East news analyst with a degree in Mass Communication and Journalism from Southern Connecticut State University. A past columnist with The Jewish Press and senior editor at Arutz 7, Ms. Julian has written for Babble.com, Chabad.org and other media outlets, in addition to her years working in broadcast journalism.
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