Israeli settler sues Airbnb over ban on West Bank settlement listings

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Lawsuit comes after the US-based home rental company announced plans to remove listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank

An Israeli minister called on Airbnb hosts in the settlements to file lawsuits earlier this week (AFP)
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Friday 23 November 2018 9:35 UTC
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An Israeli settler has filed a lawsuit against Airbnb, accusing the US-based company of "discrimination" after it announced plans to remove home rental listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

According to court papers filed in the Jerusalem District Court, Israeli settler Ma'anit Rabinovich said the company's decision "represents especially grave, offensive and outrageous discrimination," Reuters reported on Thursday.

Rabinovich lives in the Israeli settlement of Kida, in the northern West Bank, and uses Airbnb to rent out guest rooms there, the news agency said.

Rabinovich is seeking $2,573 in personal damages and the class-action lawsuit would seek an as-yet-unspecified sum on behalf of others in the same situation, Reuters said.

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Airbnb is removing its listings in Israeli settlements

The class action comes only a few days after Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan called on Airbnb hosts affected by the decision to file lawsuits in accordance with Israel's anti-boycott law, Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported.

"The company's decision is in effect directed solely against Israeli citizens living in the settlements, the petitioner claims, and this is severe, especially outrageous discrimination," Rabinovich's lawyers said in a statement, as reported by Reuters.

"(It is) part of the long war being conducted by organisations (of which a clear majority are anti-Semitic) against the State of Israel in its entirety, and against Israelis living in settlements in particular."

An Airbnb spokesman declined to comment on the lawsuit, Reuters said.

Years of pressure

After years of pressure from Palestinian and international human rights groups, Airbnb announced on Monday that it would remove rental listings in Israel's Jewish-only settlements in the West Bank.

The company said the decision would affect about 200 listings.

"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," the company said in a statement on its website.

Human Rights Watch welcomed the decision, saying it was a "positive step" that other companies, such as Booking.com, should follow.

“By delisting rentals in illegal settlements off-limits to Palestinians, Airbnb has taken a stand against discrimination, displacement, and land theft,” said Arvind Ganesan, HRW's business and human rights director, in a statement this week.

“The continued business activities of Booking.com and other companies in settlements contribute to entrenching a two-tiered discriminatory regime in the West Bank.”

Airbnb rentals in Israeli settlements promote "structural discrimination, theft of Palestinians' land, and direct violations of international law,” reads a 2016 petition launched by rights groups, including Jewish Voice for Peace and Code Pink, which campaigned to have the company delist its settlement rentals.

"Through earning fees from settlement vacation rentals, Airbnb is directly profiting from the continuing occupation and dispossession of Palestinians,” the groups said.

Israeli leaders condemned Airbnb's decision earlier this week, with the country's tourism minister, Yariv Levin, calling it "disgraceful and miserable".

"The tourism minister has ordered his office to formulate immediate measures to limit the company’s activity throughout the country," Levin's office said in a statement on Monday.