April 11, 2019, Wilmington, Delaware –Today, attorneys representing Palestinian landowners and West Bank residents urged a federal judge to permit their claims against Israeli settlers to proceed in the lawsuit over Airbnb’s listing of properties in illegal settlements in the West Bank. Dual Israeli-U.S. citizen settlers sued Airbnb after the booking platform announced its decision to remove the rentals. Palestinian landowners—including those who possess documents establishing their ownership of the land on which the rentals sit—moved to intervene in the case. A dual Palestinian-U.S. citizen, who cannot rent the properties because they are in Jewish-only settlements, also moved to intervene. The Palestinian intervenors also sought to countersue the settlers.
On Tuesday, despite the pending motion to intervene, Airbnb announced it had reversed its decision and would allow rentals in the settlements to continue to be listed, in exchange for dismissal of several lawsuits that had been filed against the company since it announced its decision, including this one.
“Although I am disappointed by Airbnb’s about-face, we have always known that the road to justice would be a long one,” said Randa Wahbe, one of the Palestinian intervenors in the lawsuit. “We laid out the settlements’ discriminatory realities for the court and how they impact our daily lives. I hope the court will allow us to proceed with our claims.”
The intervenors have argued that the Israeli settlers’ actions constitute war crimes, crimes against humanity, and discrimination on the basis of religion and national origin, as well as trespass and unjust enrichment. In today’s filing by the Center for Constitutional Rights, human rights attorneys argued that allowing the dismissal of the lawsuit before considering the motion to intervene would prejudice the intervenors’ rights.
“Our clients, Palestinians directly affected by these Airbnb postings, intervened in the lawsuit precisely because they have significant interests at stake, and to prevent an outcome that utterly ignored those interests,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Staff Attorney Diala Shamas. “To dismiss this lawsuit without even considering the intervenors’ claims would be yet another affront to the rights of people who have had their land stolen and who have been discriminated against on the basis of their religion and national origin.”
The rentals in question are in Israeli-only settlements from which Palestinian residents of the West Bank are barred per Israeli military orders, and which are sometimes surrounded by physical barriers, military bases, and security gates. Several of the Israeli-Americans who sued Airbnb helped establish the unlawful Israeli-only settlements in the West Bank in which the rental properties sit. They occupied the land with full knowledge that the dwellings were illegally constructed or seized. Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the transfer of civilians of the occupying power into occupied territory (i.e., Israeli civilians into the occupied Palestinian territory), as well as the forcible transfer of the local population from their land. Settlements are established and maintained on Palestinian land as exclusively Jewish communities; Palestinian residents are forbidden from accessing or residing in the settlements without special permits.
Attorneys also point out that it is well settled that intervenors can continue to litigate a case even after dismissal of the underlying complaint.
For more information, visit the Center for Constitutional Rights’ case page.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.