Occupation, Inc: How Settlement Businesses Contribute to Israel’s Violations of Palestinian Rights

On January 19, 2016, Human Rights Watch released its detailed report, “Occupation, Inc: How Settlement Businesses Contribute to Israel’s Violations of Palestinian Rights”.

Human Rights Watch is an independent, international organization that works to uphold human dignity and advance the cause of human rights for all.  Human Rights Watch defends the rights of people worldwide through scrupulously investigating abuses, exposing facts, and pressuring those with power to respect rights and secure justice.

The following is an excerpt from that report. Not one word in this excerpt was altered.  It is reproduced precisely as it appears in the HRW report.  To read the full report: 2016 Report (or download as PDF)

Occupation, Inc: How Settlement Businesses Contribute to Israel’s Violations of Palestinian Rights

Israeli settlements in the West Bank violate the laws of occupation. The Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits an occupying power from transferring its citizens into the territory it occupies and from transferring or displacing the population of an occupied territory within or outside the territory. The Rome Statute, the founding treaty of the International Criminal Court, establishes the court’s jurisdiction over war crimes including the crimes of transfer of parts of the civilian population of an occupying power into an occupied territory, and the forcible transfer of the population of an occupied territory. The ICC has jurisdiction over crimes committed in or from the territory of the State of Palestine, now an ICC member, beginning in June 13, 2014, the date designated by Palestine in a declaration accompanying its accession.

Israel’s confiscation of land, water, and other natural resources for the benefit of settlements and residents of Israel also violate the Hague Regulations of 1907, which prohibit an occupying power from expropriating the resources of occupied territory for its own benefit. In addition, Israel’s settlement project violates international human rights law, in particular, Israel’s discriminatory policies against Palestinians that govern virtually every aspect of life in the area of the West Bank under Israel’s exclusive control, known as Area C, and that forcibly displace Palestinians while encouraging the growth of Jewish settlements.

As documented in this report, it is Human Rights Watch’s view that by virtue of doing business in or with settlements or settlement businesses, companies contribute to one or more of these violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses. Settlement businesses depend on and benefit from Israel’s unlawful confiscation of Palestinian land and other resources, and facilitate the functioning and growth of settlements. Settlement-related activities also directly benefit from Israel’s discriminatory policies in planning and zoning, the allocation of land, natural resources, financial incentives, and access to utilities and infrastructure. These policies result in the forced displacement of Palestinians and place Palestinians at an enormous disadvantage in comparison with settlers. Israel’s discriminatory restrictions on Palestinians have harmed the Palestinian economy and left many Palestinians dependent on jobs in settlements—a dependency that settlement proponents then cite to justify settlement businesses.

Following international standards articulated in the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, businesses are expected to undertake human rights due diligence to identify and mitigate contributions to human rights violations of not only their own activities but also activities to which they are directly linked by their business relationships. They are also expected to take effective steps to avoid or mitigate potential human rights harms—and to consider ending business activity where severe negative human rights consequences cannot be avoided or mitigated.

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. In Human Rights Watch’s view, the context of human rights abuse to which settlement business activity contributes is so pervasive and severe that businesses should cease carrying out activities inside or for the benefit of settlements, such as building housing units or infrastructure, or providing waste removal and landfill services. They should also stop financing, administering, trading with or otherwise supporting settlements or settlement-related activities and infrastructure.

…Supporters of settlement businesses have argued that they benefit Palestinians by providing them with employment opportunities and paying wages that exceed wages for comparable jobs in areas where Israel has ceded limited jurisdiction to the Palestinian Authority. They have raised concerns that, in some cases, ceasing Israeli business activity in settlements may force the layoff of Palestinian workers. Some have even described settlement businesses as models of co-existence or an alternative path to peace through economic cooperation.

The employment of Palestinians in settlement businesses does not, in any case, remedy settlement businesses’ contribution to violations of international human rights and humanitarian law. The cumulative impact of Israeli discrimination, as documented in this report and numerous others, is to entrench a system that contributes to the impoverishment of many Palestinian residents of the West Bank while directly benefitting settlement businesses, making Palestinians’ desperate need for jobs a poor basis to justify continued complicity in that discrimination.”