Human Rights Watch: West Bank businesses help settlement enterprise at expense of Palestinians

NGO says financial and regulatory incentives, business permits granted selectively.

January 19, 2016 08:36
2 minute read.
West Bank

Efrat settlement, West Bank. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)

Businesses operating in the West Bank play a part in facilitating the expansion of settlements to the detriment of Palestinians, according to a Human Rights Watch report published on Tuesday.

Titled “Occupation, Inc.How Settlement Businesses Contribute to Israel’s Violations of Palestinian Rights,” the report contends that companies based in or operating in West Bank settlements contribute to and benefit from human rights violations – including land confiscations and restrictions, discrimination and labor abuses – as well as provide support to settlement infrastructure.

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The report states that the some 20 Israeli-run industrial areas in the West Bank contribute to a system that discriminates against Palestinians for the benefit of settlements. This plays out in two main ways, the report states. The first being the financial and regulatory incentives given to businesses located in settlements, and the second being through the business permits given out by the Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories – often on land that the report says has been confiscated from Palestinians in violation of international law.

“It is therefore Human Rights Watch’s view that businesses operating in or with settlements are inextricably linked to, and benefit from, Israel’s privileged and discriminatory treatment of settlements at the expense of Palestinians.”

The report provides a number of case studies, including that of the issuing of permits to 11 Israeli-run quarries in the West Bank, while most Palestinian-run West Bank quarries in areas under Israel’s control have not been given permits, according to HRW.

The report also asserts that said businesses support settlement infrastructure through the provision of services and tax revenue. It cites the example of the 2014 projected budget for the settlement of Barkan, saying that 6 percent of the budget is provided from corporate taxes from the nearby Barkan industrial zone, and that the settlement would take in around a million shekels in water taxes, some of which is provided by the industrial zone factories.

“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,” the report asserts.

In November, the European Union approved a decision to label goods produced in settlements in the West Bank and the Golan Heights, a move that has drawn widespread condemnation from Israeli politicians, who often praise these companies, in part for the jobs they provide to Palestinians in the West Bank.

HRW says the report is not calling for a consumer boycott of settlement companies, rather, for businesses to adhere to their human rights obligations and that consumers “should have the information they need, such as where products are from, to make informed decisions.”

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