Airbnb’s November 19th decision to delist some 200 accounts of Jewish citizens who reside in the districts of Judea & Samaria, alternatively known as the West Bank, will have little economic impact on those account holders. Most of their business is generated by other advertising and hosting platforms so nothing will change. The tourists will still come. Moreover, Airbnb specifically excluded rentals from East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights from its delisting efforts. Nevertheless, despite its miniscule economic impact, it is crucial that supporters of Israel and opponents of antisemitism muster all efforts to reverse Airbnb’s illogical and discriminatory policy. This includes legal action, petitions, political and economic pressures.
The decision to ban West Bank accounts of Jewish residents exclusively is discriminatory on two levels. First, despite numerous conflict zones throughout the world – Tibet, Kashmir, Crimea, Western Sahara, Northern Cyprus, Falkland Islands, Nagorno-Karabakh, to name just a few – Airbnb decided to focus its efforts on Judea and Samaria. Second, Airbnb distinguishes between Jewish and Arab homes within Judea and Samaria. Thus an Arab resident of Jericho can freely rent his apartment, while his Jewish neighbor who resides in the community of Mitzpeh Jericho, cannot.
Judging from its disparate treatment of Israel, it is patently clear that Airbnb’s decision was motivated by pressure from nefarious anti-Israel elements. The United Nations Human Rights Council, a body hosted by the world’s worst purveyors of Antisemitism and human rights violations, placed Airbnb on its black list of companies doing business in Judea and Samaria. Human Rights Watch and other anti-Israel non-governmental organizations also chimed it. As a result, Airbnb chose the morally reprehensible path and succumbed. It is time for Airbnb to recognize that its deleterious action comes with adverse legal and economic consequences.
Within days of Airbnb’s action, a class action lawsuit was filed in Israel seeking an unspecified sum on behalf of those aggrieved by the company’s delisting campaign. A newly enacted Israeli law empowers courts to award compensation to plaintiffs who can prove that they were denied goods or services on the basis of their domicile.
Pressure on Airbnb continues to mount. Petitions garnering thousands of signatures demanding reversal of Airbnb’s decision have circulated throughout the internet and social media, and thousands of other Airbnb account holders deleted their Airbnb apps or otherwise deactivated their Airbnb accounts to signal their disgust with the company’s blatant act of discrimination. In Beverly Hills, the city council, its mayor and vice mayor slammed the company in the harshest terms and did not mince words. As reported by the Algemeiner, the city council termed Airbnb’s action “deplorable” and urged “civilized people across the globe to boycott Airbnb until such time as they desist from these despicable antisemitic actions.” Even the ultra-liberal Anti-Defamation League, in a surprising momentary act of lucidity, condemned Airbnb for its discriminatory edict.
But worse is yet to come for the company as its discriminatory policy runs afoul of U.S. laws. Approximately 26 states have enacted anti-BDS laws either by legislative action or by executive order. They vary from state to state but essentially call for the state to refrain from investing pension funds in entities subscribing to anti-Israel boycotts. These laws also prevent the state from contracting with entities engaged in BDS. In addition, some states specifically include territories administered by Israel in their anti-BDS laws thus clearly encompassing Airbnb’s boycott activities. Airbnb may have gotten itself off the UNHRC’s blacklist but may very well find itself blacklisted by 26 states.
Already, Florida’s Governor Ron DeSantis announced that he believed Airbnb’s action violates Florida’s anti-BDS statute. “Airbnb should reevaluate and reverse this policy and if they don’t do that, it will be rough sledding for them here in the state of Florida,” he said.
In addition, Congress is set to act on legislation which would bar U.S. firms from complying with U.N. boycotts of Israel, similar to existing legislation prohibiting U.S. companies from adhering to the Arab League’s boycott. The Israel Anti-Boycott Act seeks to counter blacklists compiled by the likes of the UNHRC, and shield U.S. allies from its potentially harmful effects. Such laws have been found to be constitutionally valid and not violative of free speech.
The privately held Airbnb aims to be ready to go public sometime next year. Given the torrent of adverse coverage, and potential for civil penalties and criminal liability, not to mention endless litigation, Airbnb’s board members should question the wisdom of their decision and whether their actions are in the best interests of the company and its shareholders. They’d also be wise to look at the legal quagmire the National Lawyers Guild now finds itself in as a result of that vile group’s anti-Israel discrimination policies. If Airbnb’s board had any scruples and moral fiber, they’d reverse their odious November 18th decision before the damage by that decision is irreversible.
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