(January 23, 2019 / JNS)
A new lawsuit has been filed against Airbnb, this time in San Francisco.
It alleges that the company, in its decision to delist accommodations owned by Jews in the geographical area of Judea and Samaria, is engaging in an “anti-Jewish Discriminatory Policy enacted by Airbnb [that] was adopted with the incitement and encouragement of Human Rights Watch and other organizations associated with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement (BDS).”
This suit was filed on behalf of Efrat residents of Eve Harow and her husband, Earl; Los Angeles residents Fay and Neal Shapiro; and Joel Taubman of Scottsdale, Ariz. The Harows unsuccessfully attempted to list their property with Airbnb, and the Shapiros and Taubman seek to use properties in Judea and Samaria but cannot now.
Represented by David N. Schultz and L. Marc Zell, the complaint cites violations of the Fair Housing Act, the California Fair Employment and Housing Act, the UNRUH Civil Rights Act and the California Fair Competition Law and are requesting a jury trial.
The complaint asserts that “since biblical times, Judea and Samaria have been part and parcel of the Land of Israel, as reflected in the Hebrew Bible, the Christian Bible, and an unbroken line of historical and archaeological sources spanning more than 3,000 years.”
The suit further notes that “the anti-Jewish Discriminatory Policy adopted by Airbnb contravenes federal and state law, and is repugnant to the core values and mores of the United States and the State of California. This is especially true now, when anti-Semitism is resurgent throughout the United States and the world. … Accordingly, this action seeks declaratory relief that the Airbnb Discriminatory Policy violates applicable federal and state law and injunctive relief prohibiting Airbnb from enforcing its newly enacted Discriminatory Policy.”
Further, the plaintiffs charge that “upon information and belief, Airbnb conspired with HRW and the BDS Movement to enact its Discriminatory Policy, which discriminates against Jews, including Jewish citizens of the United States and California, in violation of federal law and California state law.”
Noting that “the Airbnb Discriminatory Policy only applies to areas that Airbnb classifies as ‘Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.’ Therefore, the Discriminatory Policy only impacts listings in communities of Jews and Israelis in Judea and Samaria.
“The policy has no impact on any communities of Arabs and/or Palestinians in the same region. Moreover, the Discriminatory Policy only impacts Jews and Israelis anywhere in the world who wish to rent accommodations in Judea and Samaria. It does not impact non-Jews, who are still able to rent accommodations in Arab or Palestinian towns in Judea and Samaria using Airbnb.”
The suit notes that because “this action involves anti-discrimination claims against Airbnb, the mandatory arbitration provision and the jury waiver provision in Airbnb’s Terms of Service are void as a matter of California public policy. For this reason as well, Airbnb may not enforce the mandatory arbitration provision and the jury waiver provision in its Terms of Service.”
If the case goes through, it would represent a major blow to Airbnb.