Human Rights Watch has published a report today highlighting the role of Israeli banks in supporting Israeli settlements, noting that Israel’s largest banks are not required by domestic law to provide many of the services and financing that help support, maintain, and expand unlawful settlements in the occupied West Bank.
“In doing so, these banks violate their international law responsibilities to avoid contributing to human rights and other abuses, including unlawful land seizures, discrimination against Palestinians, and de facto annexation of the West Bank by Israel. Without these banking activities, settlement maintenance and expansion would be more difficult,” Human Rights Watch said.
“Israeli banks are financing settlement construction and facilitating settlement expansion as a matter of choice, not because they are somehow required to do so under domestic law,” said Sari Bashi, Israel and Palestine advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “Institutional investors should insist that the banks clarify the extent of their settlement activities and which if any laws would prevent them from ending these activities.”
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The organization added that settlements inherently contribute to serious human rights abuses. The transfer of an occupying power’s civilians into occupied territory constitutes a war crime. Because these abuses are inherent in Israel’s settlement enterprise – businesses do not have the ability to give back the land, allow Palestinians to access it, or dismantle the roadblocks set up to protect settlers – businesses have a responsibility to cease doing businesses in or with Israeli settlements, including locating or carrying out activities inside settlements; financing, administering, or otherwise supporting settlements or settlement-related activities and infrastructure; and contracting to purchase settlement-manufactured goods or produce.
“Israeli banks are making business decisions that contribute to serious human rights abuses,” Bashi said. “Their investors should insist on getting answers about the activities their money is funding.”
(HRW, PC, Social Media)