Ireland: call on Airbnb to stop bookings in illegal West Bank settlements

Airbnb now lists the illegal settlement on the land of Awni Shaaeb. Image: Human Rights Watch

Airbnb generates profits from tourism in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. The popular travel company is facilitating reservations through Airbnb Ireland UC, a Dublin-based company, for properties located on land that has been illegally confiscated from Palestinians. This example illustrates why we need stronger laws in Ireland that would oblige companies operating here to deal with human rights issues.

In 2018, Palestinian farmer Awni Shaaeb, 70, learned that Israeli settlers had built a house on his family’s land in the West Bank and that it was now available for rent by tourists on the Airbnb.com platform. . The land had been used to grow wheat, barley and chickpeas. In 1975, the Israeli colony of Ofra was established by seizing part of this agricultural land.

As a result, Shaaeb and his family can no longer tend the crops or even visit the plot of land.

“For someone to occupy your land, it is illegal. For someone to build on your land, rent it and profit from it – this is injustice itself,” Awni says.

Although Israeli settlements on Palestinian lands are illegal under international law, Airbnb allows tourism-related businesses based in Israeli settlements to use its platform to market their services to potential customers around the world.

Awni is just one of thousands of Palestinians affected by Airbnb’s actions in the occupied West Bank.

Following considerable public pressure from human rights organizations, Airbnb announced in November 2018 that it had decided to remove “approximately 200” listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

However, following a counter-lobby by the State of Israel and legal challenges, Airbnb reversed its decision in 2019. The reversal of the company’s decision has been condemned by advocacy groups. rights and in 2020, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights included Airbnb on a list of 112 companies involved in activities related to illegal Israeli settlements.

This week, the Irish Coalition for Business and Human Rights, of which Trócaire is a member, launched a new report: Make it your Business, which describes a series of “egregious” examples of corporate abuse similar to AirBNB that have devastating effects on people and the environment. Some of these examples include other well-known Irish companies including ESB and Tullow Oil, which are linked to serious corporate human rights violations in low-income countries around the world.

The recently released report calls for legislation to prevent abuse by making Irish companies responsible for a range of corporate human rights violations, including forced labor, land grabbing, attacks on human rights defenders, violence against women and the denial of the fundamental rights of people at work. The law would also allow victims to sue companies in Ireland for damages.

Airbnb, Inc is a United States-based company and the global leader in providing an online marketplace for vacation rentals. It has more than five million listings worldwide, covering more than 100,000 cities.

For customers in most countries, including Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, it operates through Airbnb Ireland UC, a Dublin-based company.

The State of Israel has maintained a military occupation of the West Bank for more than 50 years. By building illegal settlements, Israel has transferred over 600,000 of its citizens to Palestinian land. The UN and most states maintain that Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are illegal under international law. Settlement creation facilitated the widespread dispossession and displacement of Palestinian communities

The coalition says Ireland is failing to protect people from abuse by Irish companies abroad and we must act now! We call on the government to follow other European countries to introduce legislation to hold Irish companies accountable for their actions in other countries.

To sign the Make It Your Business petition, see: www.trocaire.org/petitions/makeityourbusiness/

Key words: Holy Land, Illegal Settlements, AirBnB, Airbnb, Trochaire

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