A view of the West Bank Jewish settlement of Maale Adumim is seen near Jerusalem (Photo: Reuters).

HRW calls on businesses to stop activities in illegal settlements

PNN/Bethlehem

Human Rights Watch (HRW)  has asked businesses to cease operations in the illegal West Bank settlements including Jerusalem, because they violate Palestinian rights and contribute to Israel’s violation of international law.

The 162-page report, which was published Tuesday and titled “Occupation, Inc.: How Settlement Businesses Contribute to Israel’s Violations of Palestinian Rights,” also concluded that companies who finance, service or trade with Jewish settlements facilitate the growth of the illegal settlements and violate the rights of Palestinians.

“Based on the findings of this report, it is Human Rights Watch’s view that any adequate due diligence would show that business activities taking place in or in contract with Israeli settlements or settlement businesses contribute to rights abuses, and that businesses cannot mitigate or avoid contributing to these abuses so long as they engage in such activities,” the report says.

“Without the participation and support of such private businesses that service Israel’s settlements, the Israeli government would incur much greater expenses to sustain the settlements and their residents. In this way, businesses contribute to Israel’s maintenance and expansion of unlawful settlements.”

Backed up by specific case studies, HRW argues that settlement-related business activity contributes to and benefits from labor abuse, unlawful confiscation of and restrictions on Palestinian land, and systematic discrimination—and thus violates a slew of international conventions and humanitarian laws.

“Businesses should account for the reality that using Palestinian land, water, minerals, and resources in their settlement operations is unlawful and comes at a great cost to Palestinians,” said Arvind Ganesan, director of HRW’s business and human rights division according to Ma’an news agency “But the tide is turning as more and more businesses are waking up to the reality that it is wrong for them to profit from inherently illegal settlements.”

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said in a preliminary comment that the report appears “one-sided” and “politicized,” adding that it was still studying the document.

Within the past two weeks, several big companies have seemed to cut their ties with the Israeli settlements, including the French telecommunication giant Orange and Irish building materials corporation CRH.

More than half a million Jewish settlers live in 237 settlements throughout the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, according to the report. Israel administers approximately 20 industrial zones covering 1,365 hectares, in the West Bank.

Israeli settlers additionally enjoy the cultivation of  9,300 hectares of agricultural land, and settlement businesses that operate 187 shopping centers inside settlements as well as 11 quarries that supply around 25 percent of Israel’s gravel market.