Human Rights Watch report shows Israeli banks funding illegal settlements in Palestinian land

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By Middle East Affairs

Seven banks in Israel are funding and supporting the unlawful expansion of settlements in the West Bank revealed a report.

Human Rights Watch published a 41-page report, “Bankrolling Abuse: Israeli Banks in West Bank Settlements,” which shows the deep ties of the banking community in illegal settlements.

The report has evidence which shows that Israel’s seven largest banks having been servicing settlements illegally because they are built in Palestinian.

Over the last decade, settlements have boomed in the West Bank, helping expand Israel’s influence, their activity has been one of the biggest obstacles in helping find a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine.

Banks have purchased property rights in new development projects and funded them all the way through completion of numerous housing units, further expanding Israeli settlements in occupied land.

Saeb Erekat, a Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat spoke to Arab News and said that Human Rights Watch report clearly shows the international community that Israeli banks have a wide-reaching scope in funding settlements in Palestine.

“This is not a novel, new, or an isolated case: there are several Israeli and international companies that profit from the apartheid system imposed by Israel. Yet several countries that claim to support the two-state solution continue to allow their companies to take part in this illegal enterprise,” said Erekat.

Erekat describes the feelings in Palestine,
“We will continue to denounce the activity of banks and other companies that profit from the occupation of Palestine and we will take all necessary legal and political measures against those who contribute to the systematic denial of our rights.”

The Israel and Palestine advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, Sari Bashi told Arab News that his organization has expressed their wishes to the International Criminal Court’s to “open a formal investigation” against Israel and their illegal activities in Palestine.

Bashi said, “The transfer of an occupying power’s civilian population into the occupied territory is a war crime by the occupying power. Businesses, like banks, are facilitating that crime by providing services that make settlements more sustainable and, in the case of Israeli banks, expand them on land unlawfully seized from Palestinians.”

The report was conducted by searching online listings for construction projects, Palestinian and Israeli land and municipal records and construction company reports to show illegal expansion of settlements.

Human Rights also spoke to landowners, visited settlement construction sites, and reviewed research on banking activities and land status by Israeli nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) Who Profits and Kerem Navot.

After they had gathered enough research, they published their findings, Bashi commented, “Israeli banks are partnering with developers to build homes reserved exclusively for Israelis on Palestinian land. The projects these banks underwrite contribute to displacing Palestinians unlawfully.”

The Report hopes to “dismantle the two-tiered system that discriminates against and otherwise systematically violates the rights of Palestinians in the West Bank,” at Israel’s doing.

Bashi and his team have also communicated their wishes to the the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to “scrutinize the conduct of Israeli banks to determine their inclusion in the database it is preparing on companies doing business with Israel’s illegal settlements.”

Disclosure

In speaking to Arab News, an American Palestinian businessman Sam Bahour, who resides in the West Bank said that Israeli banks have no right to act against the law.

Bahour said, “Given the adversity to risk for every bank worldwide, this report, added to the others which addressed the same issue, should be good reason for individual banks — from Citibank to Israeli banks — to evoke a clear disclosure in big red bold letters that material ramifications of doing business with Israeli banks are real.”

He also wishes that the findings of the report “would cause disengagement from doing business and divestment from Israeli banks. Banks cannot do business in settlements without contributing to discrimination, displacement, and land theft, to avoid this outcome, they should end their settlement activities.”

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