In December, a gaggle of Israeli settlers sued Airbnb in a US Court docket, claiming discrimination beneath the Honest Housing Act as a result of the corporate determined to de-list properties in settlements constructed on occupied Palestinian land within the West Financial institution. One among these properties is on land that belongs to my father, that is still registered in his identify, however which I and my household are prevented from accessing.
It’s land that my youngsters and I ought to be capable to take pleasure in and farm like my father did. As a substitute, strangers run a mattress and breakfast on it. For these settlers to say it’s they who face discrimination — when they’re dwelling on land that was stolen from my household — is the peak of hypocrisy. That’s why this week, together with a number of different Palestinians, I intervened of their lawsuit, and countersued them.
When Airbnb introduced late final 12 months that it could not listing properties in Israeli settlements within the West Financial institution, the transfer was welcomed by Palestinians and human rights organizations, who for years have urged firms like Airbnb to cease working in settlements, which violate worldwide legislation and impose large struggling on Palestinians.
Predictably, the Israeli authorities and its supporters responded by attacking Airbnb, together with on this outrageous lawsuit filed beneath the Honest Housing Act – a civil rights statute meant to battle discrimination in housing – as a result of Airbnb will not listing a mattress and breakfast in a Jewish-only settlement constructed on land that was stolen from my father. This month, attorneys with the Middle for Constitutional Rights representing me and different Palestinians, together with two villages, filed a movement to intervene within the settlers’ lawsuit. We’re arguing to the courtroom that we now have an curiosity within the consequence of this litigation, as a result of it’s our land that the settlers are on. We’re additionally countersuing the settlers for their very own legal responsibility for conflict crimes.
I come from a household of farmers. For numerous generations, my ancestors cultivated olives and wheat in Ein Yabrud, offering for his or her households with their bounty. Since shortly after the 1967 Warfare, when the Israeli military took management of the West Financial institution, Ein Yabrud has been occupied by Jewish settlers, lots of them messianic non secular extremists, who based the settlement of Ofra on land belonging to our village in 1975. I used to be nonetheless younger, however I keep in mind when it occurred.
Ofra has devastated my household and my neighborhood. Many Palestinians from my village had been pressured to cease farming their lands as a result of the Israeli army declared them to be in a “closed army zone.” We’ve got one other piece of land that’s three miles from Ofra, however for the final 20 years we now have solely been capable of entry it 4 or 5 days a 12 months, with a allow from the military, to reap our olives. As a result of we are able to’t take correct care of the bushes, we produce much less oil.
The settler mattress and breakfast is on solely certainly one of a number of of my father’s lands that had been seized by the Ofra settlers. He by no means gave up hope that he would sooner or later get his land again. And it’s his legacy that I’m upholding by going to courtroom. How does a farmer dwell with out his land?
At this time, Ofra is among the oldest settlements within the West Financial institution, and constructed totally on privately owned Palestinian land, like my father’s. The settlers of Ofra are sometimes violent, particularly in direction of the farmers, to dissuade them from persevering with to are likely to their crops. Typically settlers come and break home windows and automotive windshields in our village. Typically they shoot within the air to scare us off our lands. They do that whereas Israeli troopers stand by and defend them.
With out our lands, like many Palestinians earlier than us, I and several other of my siblings made the tough determination to go away our residence to discover a higher life for our households in the USA. At this time I work as a truck driver, placing in lengthy hours on the street to assist my spouse and 5 children, two of whom are in school.
Once I was sworn in as a US citizen, the choose instructed us to always remember the place we got here from. I educate my children that we’re proud Individuals, however we’re additionally proud Palestinians. Two of my youngsters had been born in Ein Yabrud, the place my mom nonetheless lives together with my youngest brother and his household, and all have visited. I’ve taught my youngsters concerning the land and its historical past. We return as usually as we are able to, as a household. It’s vital for me that they see the situations Palestinians dwelling beneath Israel’s army rule must endure. I need them to witness the troopers on the checkpoints, the settlements that scar the panorama, and the opposite ugly realities of Israel’s occupation.
It’s nonetheless gorgeous for me to see photographs of my father’s lands posted on the web in an inventory for an expensive mattress and breakfast run by settlers. No matter Israel’s makes an attempt to erase us and change us with Jewish Israelis, we refuse to surrender our rights or our land. That’s the reason we’re taking authorized motion in opposition to these settlers and in assist of Airbnb’s principled determination to delist properties in West Financial institution settlements.
We’re additionally urging Airbnb to hold via with its dedication to respecting worldwide human rights legislation and for different firms that revenue from Israel’s theft of our land and different abuses of our rights to observe its lead. As a Palestinian, I do know that I can’t get justice in Israel. However I imagine that there’s justice within the US, and hope the choose will affirm that perception.
Ziad Alwan is a Palestinian-American who lives in Chicago and is from Ein Yabrud, Palestine. He’s an intervenor within the lawsuit of Silber v. Airbnb.