Two Palestinians in the United States are suing Israeli settlers for profiting from property stolen from their families in the occupied West Bank, by listing them on the home rental website Airbnb.
The lawsuit is in the form of a counterclaim against the settlers, who themselves filed a lawsuit against Airbnb over its decision last year to remove listings of settlement properties.
The two Palestinians, Ziad Alwan and Randa Wahbe, are being joined in their lawsuit by two towns in the occupied West Bank, the municipality of Anata, east of Jerusalem, and the village council of Jalud, near Nablus.
They are being represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights, which filed the counterclaim in federal court in Delaware on Monday.
In their original lawsuit , the settlers claim that Airbnb is discriminating against them under the Fair Housing Act, a civil rights-era US law that guarantees people access to housing regardless of their race, ethnicity or religion.
But the attorneys for the Palestinian landowners say this turns reality on its head, as the properties the settlers are listing on Airbnb are located in Israeli settlements where Palestinians are prohibited from entering.
All Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Syria’s Golan Heights are illegal under international law.
“Anyone looking at the facts can tell that we are the rightful owners of this land, no matter how the settlers try to spin it,” said Ziad Alwan, a Chicago resident who has a registration document showing that the land on which the settlers are running a bed and breakfast is registered in his father’s name.
“I am filing this lawsuit in my father’s memory, and for my own children, whom I’ve taught to never forget that this land is rightfully theirs.”
Alwan tells his story in the brief video above.
According to the Center for Constitutional Rights, the lawsuit filed by the Palestinian landowners argues that “the Israeli settlers who sued Airbnb have participated in war crimes by aiding in Israel’s seizure of land in occupied Palestinian territory, including the specific lands on which the Airbnb properties stand.”
“The settlers who sued Airbnb are cynically using the language of discrimination in order to further their own unlawful ends,” Center for Constitutional Rights staff attorney Diala Shamas said.
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