The UK government has traditionally maintained good and flourishing trade relations with the Israeli regime, despite the regime’s expansionist policies against the international law.
As of May 2011 it was reported that annual bilateral trade between Britain and Israel has exceeded £2 billion annually for the past five years and could well reach £3 billion by 2012. Israel, meanwhile, remained the UK's third largest export market in the region.
According to the annual UK Foreign Direct Investment report Israel ranks number 19 of the countries with the highest number of projects invested in the UK.
More than 300 Israeli companies are already operating in Britain and the country feels obligated to provide its financial services to Israel, with the City of London, which is regarded as Europe’s premier centre for financial services, acting as a gateway to Europe for Israeli companies.
The British Israeli Chamber of Commerce (B-ICC) was established to encourage bilateral trade between the UK and the Zionist entity. The institution was supposed to facilitate a number of trade delegations to Israel each year to help encourage trade and foster closer business relationships between Britain and Israel.
However, the call for boycott and divestment from Israel spreads significantly in the UK.
Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Al-Quds are illegal under International Law. Through illegal seizures, these settlements have contributed to injustice and poverty for Palestinian people. By trading with them, European states, particularly Britain, are making these illegal settlements viable.
The Methodist Church of Britain, the fourth largest Christian denomination in the UK with 70 million members worldwide, has voted to boycott Israeli products and services produced in the occupied West Bank because of Israel’s “illegal occupation of Palestinian lands.”
The second largest trade union of the UK (UNISON) with 1.3 million members supports a full boycott of Israel - economic, cultural and sporting - and cut all the ties with the Histadrut, Israel’s organization of trade unions.
The other UK’s largest trade union with two million members, Unite, voted unanimously for a complete boycott of Israeli goods and services and called for divestment from Israeli companies in June 2010. Unite accuses Israel of “a policy of ethnic cleansing,” “the enforced bankruptcy of the Palestinian Authority” and “the continued building of the apartheid wall.” It furthermore describes Israel as a “war state” with “no appetite for peace or coexistence.”
Since June 1967, Israel has occupied the West Bank (including East Al-Quds), and the Golan Heights. It has established civilian settlements in these occupied territories, which is illegal according to international law. The creation of these settlements is in violation of Israel’s obligations under the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 which was adopted to protect civilians during armed conflict.
The occupying regime was forced to dismantle its settlements in the Gaza Strip in August 2005. In the West Bank and the Golan Heights, however, settlements are expanding and new ones are being established in breach of international law.
On the other hand, UK companies are involved in the construction of settlement infrastructure, including the West Bank apartheid wall. UK companies, organizations and institutions are playing a big role in supporting - directly or indirectly - the existence, functioning and continued expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.
The UK-backed business activities in the illegal settlements and their associated industrial zones are very important for their economic viability. Agricultural companies producing fruit, vegetables and flowers dominate, but industries producing food products, plastic products, metal products, chemicals, cosmetics and many other products are also relevant for the economy of the settlements and thus are an important factor in their continued existence.
Accordingly, these economic links sustain a continuing violation of international law, which has grave consequences for the enjoyment of human rights by the local non-settler population.
According to a survey 68 British companies are known to have direct or indirect relationships with Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory; 49 of which have their head office in the United Kingdom and 19 of which are British subsidiaries of companies based in Israel or other countries.
A total of 27 Israeli companies operating in settlements and exporting to the United Kingdom have been identified as follows:
· Fruit, vegetables and fresh herbs: Agrexco, Arava, Flowers Direct, Hadiklaim, Mehadrin Tnuport Export
· Other food products: Abady Bakery, Achdut, Adumim Food Additives/Frutarom, Amnon & Tamar, Oppenheimer, Shamir Salads
· Beverages: Adanim Tea, Soda-Club, Tishbi Estate Winery
· Cosmetics: Dead Sea Laboratories, Intercosma
· Pharmaceuticals: Fermentek
· Plastic products: Keter Plastic, Tip Top Toys, Twitoplast
· Metal products: DiSTeK, Mul-T-Lock, Yardeni Locks
· Textile products: Caesarea Carpets, Dispobud, Ofertex
· Other products: Greenkote
For 25 of these 27 companies a total of 51 British trading partners were found: 12 British marketing subsidiaries of the Israeli companies concerned and 39 British importers and retailers. Fruit and vegetables exported by these settlement companies are sold by major UK high street retailers, such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose and Somerfield. Other products exported by settlement companies are sold by well-known British retail chains, such as Marks & Spencer (M&S), John Lewis and B&Q.
The following British companies sell products from more than one Israeli company linked to the Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank:
· Just Kosher is linked to six companies: Abadi Bakery, Achdut, Adanim Tea, Amnon & Tamar, Oppenheimer, Shamir Salads.
· Tesco is linked to four companies: Arava, Hadiklaim, Mehadrin-Tnuport, Soda-Club.
· Sainsbury’s is linked to two companies: Hadiklaim, Soda-Club.
· John Lewis (including its supermarket division Waitrose) is linked to two companies: Ahava, Hadiklaim
· Argos is linked to two companies: Keter Plastic, Soda-Club.
Three British companies with investments in settlements in territories occupied by Israel have been identified:
· Hanson UK is a supplier of heavy building materials to the construction industry. It has a subsidiary in Israel which owns factories and quarries in the West Bank. Hanson UK was acquired in September 2007 by German company Heidelberg Cement.
· British Israel Investment is an Israeli property company owning a shopping mall in Maaleh Adumim, a settlement in the occupied West Bank. The major shareholder of British Israel Investment is the British businessman Leo Noe, the executive chairman of F&C REIT Asset Management.
· Unilever is a major Anglo-Dutch food, detergent and personal care company which owns a 51 percent share in Beigel & Beigel, a pretzel and snacks factory located in a settlement in the occupied West Bank. Unilever recently announced that it will sell its stake in Beigel & Beigel.
One British company offering products or services to Israeli settlements has been identified:
· Power tools from British manufacturer Record Power are imported from the United Kingdom to Israel by Israeli company D.N.M. Technical Equipment and Tools, which has a branch located in the Barkan Industrial Zone, in the West Bank.
The British bank HSBC is involved as underwriter in financing the Israeli state budget by helping the Israeli regime to issue bonds on the international capital markets. On its own there is nothing wrong with this; it is only where such funds are used to support prohibited activities, such as the establishment of settlements in occupied territory and their associated infrastructure in breach of Israel’s obligations under international law, would this raise concerns.
In addition, there are nine British financial institutions owning bonds issued by the State of Israel, which are used to fund activities undertaken by the Israeli regime. Again, it is only where such activities are in breach of international law that this becomes a cause for concern:
· Artemis Investment Management
· Ashmore Investment Management
· Barclays Global Investors
· Capital International Ltd, part of Capital Group (United States)
· Fortis Investments (United Kingdom), part of Fortis (Belgium)
· Investec Asset Management
· Morley Fund Management
· Pictet Asset Management (UK) Ltd, part of Pictet (Switzerland)
· State Street Global Advisors UK Ltd, part of State Street Corporation (United States)
Two large Israeli banks, Bank Leumi and the Mizrahi Tefahot Bank, have subsidiaries in the United Kingdom. These two banks also have branches in settlements in the occupied territories. Their Israeli parent banks engage in mortgage and other lending activities that include financing the construction and acquisition of settlement housing and commercial properties and lending to settlement-based Israeli businesses. Bank Leumi is also a lender to the Jerusalem light rail project which links settlements in the occupied West Bank with Israel proper and thus consolidates the existence of these settlements.
The British investment company CSS was involved in several financing rounds for Greenkote, an Israeli company exporting coating with a plant and main R&D centre located in the Barkan Industrial Zone.
Meanwhile, G4S, a British security firm, has been heavily criticized for its cooperation with the Israeli regime, which ranges from providing equipment and services to Israeli checkpoints, illegal settlements, the apartheid wall and jails where Palestinian prisoners are held and tortured without trial.