(JTA) – A group of Jewish-American citizens have sued Airbnb in U.S. federal court over the announcement that it will remove the listings of homes in Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
The 18 plaintiffs filed the civil rights lawsuit in the United States District Court in Delaware alleging that the internet hospitality company has enacted a new policy discriminating against them based upon their religion.
The lawsuit, filed under the Fair Housing Act, accuses Airbnb of redlining the Jewish-owned properties while continuing to allow Muslim and Christian homeowners to rent theirs, thus also taking a side in the dispute between Israel and the Palestinians over West Bank land.
The lawsuit asks the court to prevent Airbnb from discriminating against Jewish homeowners and asks for compensation for lost rental income.
Airbnb announced early last week that it would remove the some 200 listings for rentals in the West Bank. As of Thursday morning the listings remained on its website. The company said that it consulted with experts to learn about the historical disputes in the region in order to make a decision about whether it should be doing business in “the occupied territories.”
“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,” a statement on the Airbnb website said.
The plaintiffs are 12 Jewish-American citizen families who own properties in Israel and one U.S. citizen who has used Airbnb to rent properties in areas of the West Bank. The lawsuit has been organized by the Israeli human rights law organization Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center in Israel.
An Israeli woman who rents guestrooms in her home in the West Bank outpost of Kida filed a separate lawsuit last week in Jerusalem District Court, citing the country’s anti-discrimination laws.