In 2018, Palestinian farmer Awni Shaaeb learned that Israeli settlers had built a house on his family’s land in the West Bank and that it was now available to rent by tourists on the Airbnb.com platform. The piece of land had been used to grow wheat, barley and chickpeas. In 1975, the Israeli settlement of Ofra was established by seizing part of these farmlands.
As a result, Shaaeb and his family can no longer tend to crops or even visit the parcel of land.
“For someone to occupy your land, that’s illegal. For someone to build on your land, to rent it out, and profit from it – that is injustice itself” says Awni.
Despite Israeli settlements on Palestinian land being illegal under international law, Airbnb allows tourism-related businesses which are based in Israeli settlements to use its platform to advertise their services to potential customers around the world.
Awni is just one of thousands of Palestinians impacted by Airbnb’s actions in the occupied West Bank.
Following considerable public pressure from human rights organisations, in November 2018 Airbnb announced that they had decided to remove “approximately 200” listings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
However, following a counter lobby from the State of Israel and legal challenges, Airbnb reversed its decision in 2019. The reversal of the company’s decision was met with condemnation by human rights groups and in 2020, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights included Airbnb on a list of 112 companies involved in activities connected to illegal Israeli settlements.
The Irish Coalition for Business and Human Rights Call for New Corporate Accountability Legislation
This week, the Irish Coalition for Business and Human Right, of which Trócaire is a member,, launched a new report, Make It Your Business, which outlines a series of ‘stark’ examples of corporate abuses similar to AirBNB which are having devastating impacts on people and the environment. Some of these examples include other well-known Irish companies, including the ESB and Tullow Oil, which are linked to serious corporate human rights violations in low-income countries around the world.
The newly published report calls for legislation to prevent abuses by making Irish-based companies accountable for a range of corporate human rights violations including forced labour, land grabs, attacks on human rights defenders, violence against women and denial of people’s fundamental rights at work. The law would also allow victims to take companies to court in Ireland for damages.
Who is AirBNB Inc?
Airbnb, Inc. is a US-based company and the global leader in providing an online market for vacation rentals. It has over 5 million listings worldwide, covering over 100,000 cities.
For customers in most countries, including Israel and occupied Palestinian territory, it runs its business through Airbnb Ireland UC which is a Dublin-domiciled company.
What are Israeli settlements?
The State of Israel has maintained a military occupation of the West Bank for over 50 years. Through the construction of illegal settlements, Israel has transferred over 600,000 of its citizens onto Palestinian land. The UN and most states maintain that Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are illegal under international law. The establishment of settlements has facilitated the widespread dispossession and displacement of Palestinian communities
Ireland is failing to protect people from abuses by Irish corporations abroad and we need to act now! We are calling on the Government to follow other European countries to introduce legislation to make Irish businesses answerable for their actions in other countries.