WILMINGTON, Del., April 9, 2019 /PRNewswire/ -- Lawyers working with the Israeli civil rights organization, Shurat HaDin Israel Law Center, have negotiated a settlement agreement with the online hosting giant Airbnb to rescind its discriminatory policy redlining Jewish-owned properties in the Judea and Samaria region. That policy, announced in November 2018, had banned Jewish property owners in Judea and Samaria from listing properties on Airbnb, while allowing Muslim and Christian property owners to list properties in the same area. Under the terms of the settlement agreement, Airbnb has agreed to repeal the discriminatory policy, thereby resolving the discrimination lawsuit.
The plaintiffs, a group of twelve Jewish American families had filed a civil rights lawsuit against Airbnb in the United States Federal District Court for the District of Delaware. The lawsuit was captioned Sliber, et al. v. Airbnb, 1:18-cv-01884-RGA. The lawsuit was brought in Delaware because Airbnb is incorporated in Delaware. In their lawsuit, the plaintiffs alleged that the policy of the San Francisco-based internet hospitality company discriminated against them based upon their religion.
The lawsuit was filed under the Fair Housing Act, Title VIII of the Civil Rights Act of 1968 as amended by the Fair Housing Amendments Act of 1988, ("FHA") 42 U.S.C.§ 3601, et seq., a federal statute which safeguards against discrimination in the housing sales and rental markets. While the properties were located in Judea and Samaria, the plaintiffs alleged that the discrimination was being committed by Airbnb, which is located in the United States and is bound to follow federal policies of non-discrimination wherever it operates in the world. The plaintiffs asked that the court enjoin Airbnb from discriminatory practices against Jewish homeowners and sought compensation for any lost rental income from Airbnb. Because of the pending litigation Airbnb had not implemented the announced policy, and now that the litigation has been settled the policy will never be implemented and the property owners have been saved from suffering any losses.
The lawsuit has been spearheaded by the Israeli human rights law organization Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center in Israel. The families are represented in the litigation by New York attorney Robert J. Tolchin, Esq., Israeli attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, Adv. of Tel Aviv, and Delaware counsel David Eagle, Esq., of Wilmington, Delaware.
When Airbnb publicly announced its redlining policy barring rentals of Jewish-owned properties in November, 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. The plaintiff homeowners, however, dispute that contention and contend that all the properties are legal. Further, the plaintiffs asserted that Airbnb had succumbed to pressure from the extremist Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions ("BDS") propaganda movement which seeks to delegitimize Israel and challenges its right to exist.
Under the settlement agreement Airbnb has agreed to adopt a neutral policy towards all properties in the region, allowing all homeowners to list their houses for rental on its web platform regardless of their religion, race or national origin. All listings will be subject to Airbnb's Terms of Service which require that every host agree and warrant not to offer any accommodation on Airbnb's platform that the host does not own or have permission to make available for booking.
Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center president Nitsana Darshan-Leitner stated: "The policy Airbnb announced last November was abject discrimination against Jewish users of the website. Whatever one's political view, discrimination based on religious affiliation should never be the solution. That is one of the core problems with the BDS movement. Airbnb's decision to retract its policy and adopt instead a neutral policy that treats people of all religions the same was the correct decision. We commend Airbnb for recognizing that it had landed on the wrong side of this issue and changing the policy."
Plaintiffs' New York attorney, Robert J. Tolchin, Esq., said: "Imagine if Airbnb had decided not to service Muslim homes in Oakland because they opposed growth of the Muslim community there. Nobody would tolerate that for a minute. Yet that is exactly what Airbnb's policy was for Jews in the Judea and Samaria region. As a provider of a service to the public, Airbnb is not permitted to refuse to provide services to selected religious group to engineer who it thinks should be allowed to live where. We are gratified that the legal process has worked and that as a result of the case we filed Airbnb came to recognize the mistake it had made and changed their policy."
SOURCE Shurat HaDin Israel Law Center