Israeli lawyers launched a class-action lawsuit Thursday against Airbnb, accusing the company of "outrageous discrimination" and demanding monetary damages after it withdrew listings of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
The San Francisco-based company said this week it was removing the listings of around 200 homes in settlements after hearing criticism from people who "believe companies should not profit on lands where people have been displaced.”
Israeli settlements are illegal under international law and are one of the leading causes of violence against Palestinians in the West Bank, including their forced displacement through demolitions.
Settler Ma'anit Rabinovich, who offers guest room rentals, said the move "represents especially grave, offensive and outrageous discrimination."
Rabinovich claimed US$2,573 in personal damages. The class-action lawsuit would seek an unspecified sum on behalf of others in the same situation, according to court papers presented at the Jerusalem District Court.
"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.
"(It is) part of the long war being conducted by organizations (of which a clear majority are anti-Semitic) against the State of Israel in its entirety, and against Israelis living in settlements in particular."
The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which strives for the end of Israel's military occupation of Palestine, the recognition of Palestinian refugees' right to return, and the respect of Palestinians' human rights welcomed Airbnb's move.
The movement has argued it is wrong for companies to profit from the violation of Palestinians' human rights.
"Airbnb took a decision in the right direction to stop dealings with Israeli settlements, consistent with international legitimacy," Wasel Abu Youssef, a senior official with the umbrella Palestine Liberation Organization, told Reuters.
Airbnb's delisting applies only to Israeli settlements in the West Bank, where Palestinians who live under Israeli military occupation have no freedom of movement.
It does not apply to Israel itself, or East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, territories Israel has annexed without international recognition.
A 2017 Israeli law empowers courts to award cash compensation to claimants who prove they have been denied goods or services because of where they live.