Silber, et al. v. Airbnb

At a Glance

Date Filed: 

March 18, 2019

Current Status 

The Center for Constitutional Rights filed a motion to intervene in the case on behalf of Palestinian landowners on March 18, 2019. After Plaintiffs and Airbnb filed a stipulation of dismissal, Palestinian intervenors filed a motion to proceed with their claims on April 11, 2019.

Co-Counsel 

Misty A. Seemans

Client(s) 

Case Description 

The Center for Constitutional Rights is representing two Palestinian individuals, a village council, and a municipality to intervene in Silber, et al. v. Airbnb and bring counterclaims against Israeli settlers who sued Airbnb in Delaware federal court. The intervention marks the first time that Palestinians are directly challenging the Israeli settlers living on their land in a U.S. court. The Palestinian intervenors seek to hold the settlers accountable for their role in war crimes, crimes against humanity, as well as unjust enrichment and trespass and detail their direct involvement in the illegal Israeli settlement enterprise.

The Israeli settlers who sued Airbnb have unlawfully appropriated and occupied the properties they list on Airbnb, which are in Palestinian territory that Israel began occupying in 1967.  By intervening in this case, the Palestinian intervenors – Ziad Alwan, Randa Wahbe, the village of Jalud, and the town of ‘Anata – seek to protect their interests in preventing continued dispossession and discrimination. They also seek to rebut the settlers’ claims that Airbnb discriminated against them when the company decided to remove settlement property listings from its platform.

Ziad Alwan is a Muslim United States citizen with West Bank residency born in Ein Yabrud, near Ramallah, and currently living in Chicago, where he works as a truck driver.  His family’s property is listed for rent on Airbnb by settler Inbal Levy. Randa is a United States citizen with West Bank residency who was born in California to a Christian Palestinian family. She is a Harvard PhD student, educator, and organizer.  Ziad and Randa, like all Palestinian West Bank residents, are prohibited from entering Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Jalud is a Palestinian village in the northern West Bank near the city of Nablus. Its residents have historically lived off their farmlands and the livestock that they graze on the village’s land.  The property listed on Airbnb by settler Moriyah Shapiro and claimed to be owned by her and Jonathan Shapiro is on Jalud’s land. ‘Anata is a Palestinian town in the West Bank near Jerusalem and was previously a farming community.  The properties listed on Airbnb by settlers Moshe Gordon and Tsofiya and Daniel Jacob are on ‘Anata’s land.  

The original case was brought against Airbnb on November 28, 2018, by 11 Israeli settlers (who are also U.S. citizens), who list or seek to list their properties for rent on Airbnb, and nine U.S. citizens (three who are dual citizens of Israel) who seek to rent Airbnb properties in settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory. They claim that under the Fair Housing Act (FHA), Airbnb’s decision to delist illegal settlement properties in the occupied West Bank “discriminates against Jews and/or Israelis on its face and in effect on the basis of race, religion and national origin.” But the properties that settlers list and claim to own in this lawsuit are on Palestinian land, some of which belongs to Mr. Alwan, the village of Jalud, and the town of ‘Anata. And yet, because they are Palestinian, intervenors, including Ms. Wahbe, are prohibited from accessing these properties because they are located in discriminatory Israeli settlements, which exclude Palestinians and are illegal under international law.

Mr. Alwan, Ms. Wahbe,  Jalud, and ‘Anata seek to intervene to assert their property and legal interests and show that, as the settlements are both unlawful and inherently discriminatory, the plaintiffs are in effect claiming that Airbnb is discriminating against settlers’ ability to dispossess Palestinians and exclude them from their own land. The intervenors seek to bring counterclaims against the settlers for their unlawful trespass and occupation of this land, for their displacement and persecution of Palestinians, and for the discriminatory advertising of these properties through platforms like Airbnb.

Airbnb’s announcement that it would de-list from its platform approximately 200 properties within occupied Palestine owned and/or operated by Israeli settlers was a win for social justice campaigners and the wider movement for Palestinian rights after several years of grassroots campaigning to demand Airbnb and other companies withdraw operations from the occupied Palestinian territory.  Airbnb has stated that it would not de-list Israeli properties in East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights, even though, like the West Bank, they are under Israeli occupation.

The Israeli settlement enterprise violates several rules of international law, including the prohibitions on the transfer of civilians of the occupying power into occupied territory (i.e. Israeli civilians into the occupied Palestinian territory); the forcible transfer or deportation of protected persons within or outside the occupied territory (i.e. Palestinians from one part to another, or out of occupied Palestinian territory); the appropriation of  civilian property without military necessity; and pillage. Businesses, like Airbnb, are expected to identify and mitigate their contributions to human rights and international law violations – including by ending business operations that contribute to such violations.

This case is part of the Center for Constitutional Rights’ larger Palestine solidarity work.

Case Timeline

April 11, 2019
Palestinian intervenors move to proceed with claims against settlers
April 11, 2019
Palestinian intervenors move to proceed with claims against settlers
Settler-plaintiffs oppose the motion on May 13, 2019, and intervenors reply on May 23, 2019.
April 9, 2019
Plaintiffs and Airbnb file stipulation of dismissal
March 18, 2019
Center for Constitutional Rights files motion to intervene in case on behalf of two Palestinian individuals, a village, and a municipality, who also seek to bring counterclaims against settlers
March 18, 2019
Center for Constitutional Rights files motion to intervene in case on behalf of two Palestinian individuals, a village, and a municipality, who also seek to bring counterclaims against settlers
The motion argues that the intervenors, on whose stolen land the settlers are trying to rent housing through Airbnb or who are discriminated against by the listings, have a direct interest in the case and should have their interests represented. The filing also includes counterclaims against the settlers.
January 29, 2019
Airbnb moves to dismiss lawsuit
January 29, 2019
Airbnb moves to dismiss lawsuit
November 28, 2018
Group of settlers and renters files complaint against Airbnb alleging discrimination
November 28, 2018
Group of settlers and renters files complaint against Airbnb alleging discrimination
The settlers file an amended complaint to add a nineteenth plaintiff on December 21, 2018.
November 19, 2018
Airbnb announces policy to remove listings in Israeli settlements in West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem
November 19, 2018
Airbnb announces policy to remove listings in Israeli settlements in West Bank, excluding East Jerusalem