Businesses should stop operating in, financing, servicing, or trading with Israeli settlements in order to comply with their human rights responsibilities, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today. Those activities contribute to and benefit from an inherently unlawful and abusive system that violates the rights of Palestinians.
The 162-page report, “Occupation, Inc.: How Settlement Businesses Contribute to Israel’s Violations of Palestinian Rights,” documents how settlement businesses facilitate the growth and operations of settlements. These businesses depend on and contribute to the Israeli authorities’ unlawful confiscation of Palestinian land and other resources. They also benefit from these violations, as well as Israel’s discriminatory policies that provide privileges to settlements at the expense of Palestinians, such as access to land and water, government subsidies, and permits for developing land.
“Settlement businesses unavoidably contribute to Israeli policies that dispossess and harshly discriminate against Palestinians, while profiting from Israel’s theft of Palestinian land and other resources,” said Arvind Ganesan, director of the business and human rights division. “The only way for businesses to comply with their own human rights responsibilities is to stop working with and in Israeli settlements.”
More than a half million Israeli settlers live in 237 settlements throughout the Israeli-occupied West Bank, including in East Jerusalem. Successive Israeli governments have facilitated this process, but businesses also play a critical role in establishing and expanding settlements, and enabling them to function.
Under the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, companies should respect human rights and identify and mitigate any adverse human rights impact their operations may cause. But because of the nature of settlements, which are inherently illegal under the Geneva Conventions, companies cannot mitigate their contribution to Israel’s violations so long as they operate in settlements or engage in settlement-related commercial activity, Human Rights Watch said.