In the wake of Airbnb’s policy to delist 200 Israeli-owned rental properties in the West Bank, Scottsdale resident Joel Taubman has joined a lawsuit against the company for what he describes as blatant anti-Israeli action.
“I joined the lawsuit to end Airbnb’s discriminatory policy that stops Jews from using the site for travel to Judea and Samaria,” Taubman said.
Zell Aron & Co. is representing Taubman and four others in the lawsuit. The lawsuit was formally announced in January. The San Francisco-based law firm claims the vacation company’s policy toward Judea and Samaria, which was introduced in November 2018, violates the Federal Fair Housing Act and California law.
The suit was filed on behalf of Efrat residents Eve and Earl Harow. Due to Airbnb’s new policy, the Harows can’t rent out their property using the company, something they had been doing for a few years.
The law firm now is representing Jewish Americans who wished to take action against Airbnb. Taubman, a project manager for the communication infrastructure company Crown Castle, joined the suit just before it was publicly filed.
Founder of Zell Aron & Co., L. Marc Zell, said Airbnb’s policy is only affecting Jews and Israeli citizens. A recent search on Airbnb’s platform shows there are still listings in Arab and Palestinian towns in the region that are not owned by Jewish or Israeli citizens.
In a statement from Airbnb, the company said that it has been criticized by many in the global community for doing business in the region “because no one should profit on lands where people have been displaced.”
The statement also introduces a framework to evaluate other listings in occupied territories. The framework states that Airbnb will treat each situation individually, consult with experts, assess any potential safety risks and evaluate whether its listings contribute to existing human suffering.
Taubman, who has used the platform to visit Israel in the past, said the policy is hypocritical. He has seen listings in other parts of the world such as Turkish-controlled Northern Cyprus and war-torn Yemen. At press time, those listings remain posted.
“It is inconceivable that Airbnb would at the same time alter its long-standing policy against complying with the anti-Semitic BDS movement by delisting Jewish/Israeli accommodations in Judea and Samaria, while continuing to permit Arab homeowners located literally across the road to participate in the Airbnb program,” Zell said.
Airbnb stated that it is not boycotting Israel and does not support the BDS movement or any boycott of any Israeli company. Its policy affects just the 200 listings in the West Bank and not the 20,000 throughout Israel, which include areas in Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.
Shortly after announcing the lawsuit, Amnesty International released a 96-page report, “Destination: Occupation,” stating that Airbnb and similar countries were contributing to and profiting from “the maintenance, development and expansion of illegal settlements, which amount to war crimes under international criminal law.”
“I am disturbed to hear that Amnesty International is demanding Airbnb prevent Jews from booking rooms in places like the Jewish Quarter of ancient Jerusalem,” Taubman said.
A travel advisory was issued by the U.S. State Department on Dec. 28 stating that terrorism, potentially violent civil unrest and possible armed conflict were among the main dangers.
Airbnb also is facing backlash from Florida and Texas for its delisting policy. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis called for state sanctions against Airbnb in January. Texas officially boycotted Airbnb earlier this month, making it the first American company to be boycotted by the state over BDS concerns.
Taubman said he hopes that more people will see the danger of this policy.
“I hope the courts rule swiftly in our case to prevent Airbnb from extending their discrimination to the foot of the Western Wall, the holiest site in the world for the Jewish people and a place dear to my heart,” Taubman said. JN