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Israeli banks funding settlements, helping war crimes against Palestinians: HRW

The photo shows a view of the Israeli settlement of Beitar Illit in the occupied West Bank on February 14, 2018. (By AFP)

Human Rights Watch (HRW) says Israeli banks are financing the regime’s “unlawful” settlement construction activities on the occupied territories, contributing to serious human rights violations and war crimes against Palestinians.

In a 41-page report published on Tuesday, the New York-based rights group said Israel’s seven largest banks provide services to settlements and facilitate their expansion, thus abetting unlawful population transfers.

“The transfer by the occupier of members of its civilian population into the occupied territory, and the deportation or transfer of members of the population of the territory, are war crimes,” the HRW said.

The report, entitled “Bankrolling Abuse: Israeli Banks in West Bank Settlements,” stressed that in addition to construction projects, Israeli banks provide loans to settlement authorities and buyers and operate bank branches there.

“Israeli banks are partnering with developers to build homes reserved exclusively for Israelis on Palestinian land,” said Sari Bashi, Israel and Palestine advocacy director at the HRW, adding, “The projects these banks underwrite contribute to displacing Palestinians unlawfully.”

The report also warned that the Israeli settlements contribute to “a discriminatory regime in which Israeli authorities restrict and stunt Palestinian economic development.”

“Settlements inherently contribute to serious human rights abuses. Companies that conduct business in or with settlements cannot mitigate or avoid contributing to these abuses, because the activities they conduct take place on unlawfully seized land, under conditions of discrimination, and through a serious violation of Israel’s obligations as an occupying power,” it added.

The HRW called on the Israeli banks to cease doing businesses in or with Israeli settlements.

“Banks cannot do business in settlements without contributing to discrimination, displacement, and land theft,” Bashi said. “To avoid this outcome, they should end their settlement activities.”

Palestine vows action on Israeli banks

Responding to the report, Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), said that the Palestinian Authority would take necessary measures against Israeli banks for abusing the Palestinian people’s rights.

Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization (Photo by AFP)

He said in a statement that the HRW report had clarified the banks’ role in “the Israeli colonial-settlement enterprise” in the occupied Palestinian lands.

“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,” Erekat pointed out.

He further emphasized that the Palestinians “will take all necessary legal and political measures against those who contribute to the systematic denial of our rights.”

About 600,000 Israelis live in over 230 settlements built illegally since the 1967 occupation of the Palestinian lands.

The Tel Aviv regime has been emboldened by the all-out support of US President Donald Trump, stepping up its settlement construction activities in the occupied territories in defiance of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Resolution 2334.

The resolution, approved in December 2016, states that Israel’s establishment of “settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.”

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