The Lawfare Project “calls upon Airbnb’s leadership to carefully consider the bigoted nature of its decision—as well as its own business interests—and to immediately cancel its discriminatory policy.”
By: United with Israel Staff
Airbnb may face legal action after it announced on Monday that it was removing Israeli property listings in Judea and Samaria.
The decision follows years of pressure from the anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) campaign, which advocates boycotts and other unlawful discriminatory business practices targeting Israelis.
The Lawfare Project, a legal think tank and litigation fund that pursues legal actions to uphold Jews’ civil and human rights, on Wednesday sent an email to Airbnb’s CEO Brian Chesky cautioning him that Airbnb’s decision could expose the company to a range of severe consequences under US state and federal law.
In the letter, Lawfare Project COO Benjamin Ryberg wrote that Airbnb’s action “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.”
He noted that for “several years, Airbnb has steadfastly rejected pressure from the BDS campaign and refused to engage in bigoted, unlawful conduct. It was therefore particularly stunning to learn of Airbnb’s about-face.”
Airbnb’s removal of Israeli listings may run afoul of such statutes as the Export Administration Act of 1979, the Ribicoff Amendment to the Tax Reform Act of 1976, and the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890.
On the state level, 26 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 longstanding legislation that outlaws discriminatory business conduct based on the religion, national origin, or citizenship of the target and enables entities to sue the perpetrators of such discrimination.
Acting on these laws, the Lawfare Proejct has been successful in blocking Kuwait Airways flights to the US over its refusal to sell airline tickets to Israeli passport holders.
Another instance is the currently pending civil lawsuit against the National Lawyers Guild (NLG), filed by an Israeli-based organization in New York State Supreme Court in response to the NLG’s refusal to sell advertising space to the plaintiff organization based on its Israeli national origin.
“Violations of the laws discussed therein carry severe civil and criminal penalties,” Ryberg warned.
The Lawfare Project “calls upon Airbnb’s leadership to carefully consider the bigoted nature of its decision—as well as its own business interests—and to immediately cancel its discriminatory policy,” it stated.
Israel Takes Action
In the meantime, Israel said Tuesday it would slap high taxes on Airbnb and encourage legal steps against the site over its anti-Israel decision.
Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin called on Airbnb to reverse its “discriminatory decision” and “disgraceful surrender” to the boycott movement, vowing that Israel would retaliate.
“If you have a policy of discrimination against Israelis you cannot earn money in Israel,” he told The Associated Press.
He also said the government would encourage hosts in Judea and Samaria to sue the company to make it “pay” for its decision. Levin added that Israel would impose other restrictions on Airbnb’s operations in the country.
AP contributed to this report.
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