In December, a bunch of Israeli settlers sued Airbnb in a US Courtroom, claiming discrimination below the Truthful 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 in every of these properties is on land that belongs to my father, that continues to be registered in his identify, however which I and my household are prevented from accessing.
It’s land that my kids and I ought to be capable to get pleasure from and farm like my father did. As an alternative, strangers run a mattress and breakfast on it. For these settlers to assert it’s they who face discrimination — when they’re residing 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 yr that it could now 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 below the Truthful Housing Act – a civil rights statute supposed to battle discrimination in housing – as a result of Airbnb will now 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 Heart 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 court docket that we now have an curiosity within the final result 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 struggle 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 Battle, when the Israeli military took management of the West Financial institution, Ein Yabrud has been occupied by Jewish settlers, a lot of them messianic spiritual extremists, who based the settlement of Ofra on land belonging to our village in 1975. I used to be nonetheless younger, however I bear 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 navy declared them to be in a “closed navy zone.” Now we have one other piece of land that’s three miles from Ofra, however for the final 20 years we now have solely been in a position to entry it 4 or 5 days a yr, with a allow from the military, to reap our olives. As a result of we will’t take correct care of the timber, we produce much less oil.
The settler mattress and breakfast is on solely one in every 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 someday get his land again. And it’s his legacy that I’m upholding by going to court docket. How does a farmer reside with out his land?
At this time, Ofra is likely one of 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 automobile 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 shield them.
With out our lands, like many Palestinians earlier than us, I and a number of other of my siblings made the tough determination to depart our residence to discover a higher life for our households in america. At this time I work as a truck driver, placing in lengthy hours on the street to help my spouse and 5 youngsters, two of whom are in faculty.
Once I was sworn in as a US citizen, the choose informed us to always remember the place we got here from. I educate my youngsters that we’re proud People, however we’re additionally proud Palestinians. Two of my kids 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 kids concerning the land and its historical past. We return as typically as we will, as a household. It’s necessary for me that they see the circumstances Palestinians residing below Israel’s navy 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 beautiful for me to see pictures of my father’s lands posted on the web in a list for an opulent mattress and breakfast run by settlers. No matter Israel’s makes an attempt to erase us and substitute 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 help of Airbnb’s principled determination to delist properties in West Financial institution settlements.
We’re additionally urging Airbnb to hold by way of 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.