BRUSSELS—Jewish and pro-Israel groups have reacted to the ‘’discriminatory’’ decision by Airbnb, the online marketplace and hospitality service, to remove listings of homes located in Israeli communities in the West Bank.
“In a letter to Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky, The Lawfare Project noted that the company’s move “carries a host of negative implications under US federal and state law prohibiting discriminatory commercial conduct, including boycotts, and may expose Airbnb to damaging legal and financial liability under such laws.
The letter read: ”On the federal side, Airbnb’s removal of Israeli listings may run afoul of such statutes as the Export Administration Act of 1979 and regulations promulgated thereunder, the Ribicoff Amendment to the Tax Reform Act of 1976, and the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890. On the state side, half of the US states have enacted legislation prohibiting state contracting with or investment in entities that participate in the economic boycott of Israel, and similar legislation is currently pending in a number of other states. States including New York and California also have long-existing legislation that outlaws discriminatory business conduct based on the religion, national origin, or citizenship of the target and enables entities to sue the perpetrator(s) of such discrimination.”
“With the enactment and vigorous enforcement of these laws, the United States has demonstrated its staunch commitment to harshly penalizing and eliminating commercial discrimination against allied nations and their business concerns,” the letter continued.
Anti-Defamation League (ADL) CEO Jonathan Greenblatt also sent a letter to Chesky, in which he wrote that, with Airbnb’s decision, “the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and its supporters will be further emboldened and view it as a victory for their hateful campaign against Israel.”
He added : “Also, as best as we can tell,Airbnb has not de-listed rentals in any other disputed areas. Your website currently lists properties in Northern Cyprus, Tibet, the Western Saharan region, and other territories where people have been displaced. Yet only Israeli settlements are being singled out for de-listing by Airbnb, a decision which many see as a double standard set by your company. Make no mistake: double standards when it comes to Israel cause us great concern.”
For the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, Chairman Arthur Stark and Executive Vice Chairman and CEO Malcolm Hoenlein urged Chesky to meet with US Jewish leaders to discuss the matter.
“Airbnb took a political decision that singles out Israelis and one ‘disputed’ territory,” they stated. “The West Bank involves complex issues that cannot be addressed with simplistic and, in this case, biased measures.”
“We know that Airbnb has in the past expressed opposition to discrimination and conduct that would support bigotry. We hope that this will be the case now. We ask Mr. Chesky to act promptly to rescind the decision and make clear that the company rejects BDS in all its manifestations,” Stark and Hoenlein concluded.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) and Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) called for a boycott of Airbnb.
“This is double standard anti-Semitism pure and simple,” Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper — the SWC’s dean and associate dean — stated. “Nowhere else on the planet has Airbnb stopped making its service available in disputed territories, except Judea and Samaria.
“To be clear, no Israeli leader, left, right, or center, would ever return to the indefensible ‘Auschwitz borders,’ a term coined by the founder of Israel’s peace movement, the late Israeli Foreign Minister, Abba Eban,” they continued. “We take note that Airbnb has no problem doing business in the territory of the Palestinian Authority, which names schools and shopping centers in honor of mass murderers who have killed innocent civilians and have a ‘pay to slay’ policy when it comes to killing Jews.”
“We don’t expect Airbnb to be geopolitical experts, but today’s draconian and unjust move, which only empowers extremists and terrorists, merits only one response — taking our community’s business elsewhere,” Hier and Cooper concluded.
The ZOA implored “all decent people to stop using Airbnb’s services until Airbnb ends this Jew-hating, anti-Semitic policy.”
“Let’s stand up for our brothers and sisters in the Jewish homeland as long as Airbnb continues to hold up a virtual ‘no Jews allowed’ sign!” the ZOA declared.
B’nai B’rith International tweeted, “Airbnb’s removal of its rental listings in the West Bank is a blatantly discriminatory decision that represents yet another instance of the double standard applied by the rest of the world to Israel. Airbnb should reverse this unfair policy immediately.”
In Europe, EJA Chairman, Rabbi Menachem Margolin , wrote a letter Thursday to the head of Global Policy at Airbnb. on the issue of West Bank de-listing
Here you can read the latter that was sent:
‘’Given that you still operate in many other countries whose territories are disputed, I feel I must ask what your position is towards the millions of disgruntled Spaniards, Western Saharans, Cypriots and the Argentinians? Do they not have an impact too on Air bnb? What about your responsibility to them?,’’ he asked.
‘’I ask because as of this morning, as I type this, you can rent properties in all of these disputed territories places on Airbnb,’’ he added.
‘’It strikes me that this decision is political,’’ Rabbi Margolin said, calling on the Airbnb official to rescind this move forthwith.. . I believe this decision will damage the air bnb brand. Not only because it overlooks and ignores the millions of other air bnb users who would take issue with properties in other disputed territories, but because your own criteria for responsibility and impact are not uniformly applied, opening you to letters such this that accuse your company of partisan politics.’’