Israeli settler sues Airbnb for dropping West Bank listings

Nati Rom, founder of the anti-Israel boycott organization Lev Haolam, walks next to an Airbnb apartment located in an outpost near the West Bank Jewish settlement of Shiloh, Nov. 20, 2018. (Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

Nati Rom, founder of the anti-Israel boycott organization Lev Haolam, walks next to an Airbnb apartment located in an outpost near the West Bank Jewish settlement of Shiloh, Nov. 20, 2018. (Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

(JTA) – An Israeli settler sued the Airbnb hosting platform over alleged discrimination over its decision to drop listings in West Bank settlements from its vacation rental website.

The lawsuit, which cites Israel’s anti-discrimination laws, was filed with the Jerusalem District Court on Thursday on behalf of Ma’anit Rabinovich, The Jerusalem Post reported Friday.

“The law in Israel forbids discrimination based on the place where you live, and what Airbnb has done is by all means discrimination based on the place where you live,” said attorney Aviel Flint, a partner in the law firm Yossi Levy & Co. which is representing Rabinovich.

The case is based on a 2000 law against discrimination in products and services, which was amended in 2017 to include place of residence.

The suit also names the Israeli NGO Kerem Navot, which along with Human Rights Watch published an in-depth report on Airbnb and on Booking.com, which offers hotel hosting. It called on both companies to remove the listings in the West Bank.

Separately, Shurat HaDin, an Israeli human rights group which has taken up various pro-Israeli causes, is preparing a lawsuit with the Jerusalem District Court against Human Rights Watch for its involvement in the Airbnb move, the Kipa news site reported Thursday.

Rabinovich lives in Kida, a West Bank outpost. She has rented guests rooms through Airbnb. She heard of Airbnb’s decision in the media this week. The company has not contacted her over her own properties.

Flint said he expects that the 200 people in Judea and Samaria who use Airbnb will join the suit, turning it into a class action.

The lawsuit’s documents state that discrimination in this case was “particularly grave and outrageous” because Airbnb has pulled listings from only one disputed territory, the West Bank, while continuing to list rentals in other places of contention such as Tibet and northern Cyprus.

The dispute between Russia and Georgia involved military invasions, and despite that, Airbnb still offered 300 apartments there for rent, the petition stated.

The petition quoted explanations from Airbnb that it respects local laws and customs. “Airbnb recognizes that some jurisdictions permit, or require, distinctions among individuals based on factors such as national origin, gender, marital status or sexual orientation, and it does not require hosts to violate local laws or take actions that may subject them to legal liability,” the company has stated.

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