This article is re-posted from Human Rights Watch.
More than half a million Israeli settlers live in 237 settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Successive Israeli governments have facilitated this process, even though settlements are unlawful under international humanitarian law and are part and parcel of Israeli policies that dispossess, discriminate against, and abuse the human rights of Palestinians.
But the system is not just propagated by the Israeli government; it also depends on the involvement of a multitude of businesses that operate in the settlements. Human Rights Watch examined the role of businesses that operate in settlements, finance settlement construction, provide services to settlers, or trade with settlement businesses. It assessed such activities under businesses’ human rights responsibilities, as articulated in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
What is Human Rights Watch calling for businesses to do and why?
Businesses have human rights responsibilities under international standards. For example, the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights obligate companies around the globe to conduct due diligence and mitigate any harmful human rights impact of their activities. These principles apply to companies working anywhere in the world and throughout their entire supply chains. Countries are expected to respect these standards and develop guidelines to implement them.
Human Rights Watch found that, in the context of settlements, business activities contribute to and benefit from Israel’s violations of Palestinians’ rights and international humanitarian law. Because the violations are intrinsic to abusive, harmful, and long-standing Israeli policies and practices in the West Bank, the only way settlement businesses can avoid or mitigate contributing to abuses in line with their responsibilities under the UN Guiding Principles is by ending their operations in settlements or in settlement-related commercial activity.
The Human Rights Watch case studies show how settlement businesses are integral to the abusive settlement system because they:
- help make settlements sustainable by providing services and employment to settlers and paying taxes to settlement municipalities;
- depend on and contribute to the unlawful confiscation of Palestinian land and resources by financing, developing, and marketing settlement homes; and
- are inextricably linked to and benefit from Israel’s discriminatory policies that encourage settlements and harshly restrict Palestinians, such as privileged access to Israeli-issued construction permits and licenses to extract natural resources that should be used only for the benefit of the Palestinian population of the occupied territory.
To read the entire HRW investigation on this topic go to https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/01/19/occupation-inc-how-settlement-businesses-contribute-israels-violations-palestinian.