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HRW: Israeli Banks Pillage Palestine Through Settlement Program and May Be Guilty of War Crime (VIDEO)

Business  (tags: Omar Shakir, director for Human Rights Watch in Israe, war crimes, Settlement Program, RNN, HRW report, settlers, West Bank occupation, middle-east, media )

- 96 days ago -
Just a day after the HRW report was released, Tel Aviv approved construction of nearly 2,000 additional settler homes in the West Bank


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fly bird (26)
Saturday June 16, 2018, 6:09 am
HRW: Israeli banks are complicit in funding settlements in the West Bank.

Deep involvement of Israeli banks in the building of illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank may amount to the war crime of pillage, HRW has said. While the settlements are condemned worldwide, Israel keeps building more.

In an article published in World Policy earlier this week, the Israel/Palestine Advocacy Director of Human Rights Watch (HRW), Sari Bashi, said:

“Israeli banks are facilitating their expansion and thus bankrolling these abuses. The involvement of banks in these transactions can amount to pillage – that is, seizing private property in conflict situations, in violation of the laws of war.”

The official gave an example of the banks’ involvement in settlement-related activities: the cooperation between developer Zemach Hammerman and Bank Leumi in constructing a new housing project in the settlement of Alfei Menashe. The developer and the bank have so-called “accompaniment agreements,”designed to protect the investments of homebuyers, Bashi explained, adding that similar patterns are used in the development of other Israeli settlements.

Late in May, HRW released a damning report on the matter, dubbed ‘Bankrolling Abuse.’ The report highlighted the deep involvement of many Israeli banks in settlement building, supervising “each stage of construction, holding the buyers’ money in escrow, and taking ownership of the project in case of default by the construction company.” The HRW report includes a list of Israeli banks involved and the projects they develop.

The lands in occupied territories can be used solely for “security purposes” and to benefit the people living in it. In December 2016 the UN Security Council confirmed the illegal status of the settlements in Resolution 2334, urging Israel to halt all demographics-altering activities in the occupied West Bank.

An occupying country transferring its own civilians into the occupied territory, as in the case of Israeli settlements on Palestinian land, is a war crime under the Fourth Geneva Convention and according to the International Criminal Court. The involvement of banks in these transactions can amount to pillage—that is, seizing private property in conflict situations in violation of the laws of war,” Bashi explained.

While the settlement-building has attracted worldwide condemnation, Israel seems to be eager to continue the process. Just a day after the HRW report was released, Tel Aviv approved construction of nearly 2,000 additional settler homes in the West Bank.

fly bird (26)
Saturday June 16, 2018, 6:13 am
“Bankrolling Abuse: Israeli Banks in West Bank Settlements” (2/2) Video 8:00
June 10, 2018


Omar Shakir, director for Human Rights Watch in Israel-Palestine discusses an investigative report on the illegal role of International and Israeli banks in the West Bank.

Story Transcript

SHARMINI PERIES: Welcome back to my conversation with Omar Shakir. He’s the director of Palestine-Israel for Human Rights Watch in Israel. And this is segment two. So if you haven’t watched segment one, please do.

Now, this segment is about the fact that last week Human Rights Watch published a new report with the title “Bankrolling Abuse: Israeli Banks in the West Bank Settlements.” It is on the role of the banks in expanding illegal colonization in the occupied Palestinian territories. Good to have you back, Omar.

OMAR SHAKIR: Thank you for having me again.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Omar, in the report “Bankrolling Abuse,” which was just published, it revealed that seven largest banks in Israel together, account for more than 90 percent of Israeli banking sector, have branches in the illegal Israeli colonies in the West Bank. And tell us more about that, and why you thought this was important to investigate and do a report on, and what these banks are mainly doing in this, in these settlements.

OMAR SHAKIR: Sure. So our report documented the role of Israel’s seven largest banks, who are directly and substantially involved in activities and settlements. Now, settlements are war crimes under international law, for two reasons. One, the transfer of one civilian population to territory acquired by war is a war crime. And secondly, in many cases, inevitably the development of settlements leads to the forced displacement of Palestinians, and is accompanied by a two-tiered discriminatory system in the West Bank that treats Palestinians separately and unequally. Inevitably, any business that operates in settlements benefits from and contributes to gross violations of human rights and international law.

And the case of banks, they’re involved in four sets of activities in the West Bank that raise significant concern, and put it in violation of its international legal obligations. First of all, as you mentioned, they operate bank branches in settlements. But that actually might be the least of their violations. More substantially, actually, they provide loans to settlement regional councils. So they’re directly providing loans to the governing authority that oversees settlements, which again is used to further establish settlements.

In addition, they actually provide mortgages to homeowners, to settlers, to purchase homes on Palestinian land. So again, this is Israelis purchasing homes on land confiscated, taken from Palestinians, which Palestinians cannot access. And maybe most significantly, they’re actually directly partnering in construction projects. So you have banks that actually will take ownership of territory after it’s taken by the Israeli authorities, and will play a direct role in the process of providing finance, mortgage, et cetera, and taking ownership of the land before it’s eventually sold to an Israeli settler. So that makes it a really substantial and direct connection, and makes it a contributor to war crimes, and other serious violations of international law and human rights.

SHARMINI PERIES: What do you say to those banks? How can you avoid complicity with the war crimes in these situations?

OMAR SHAKIR: You simply can’t. There is no way to do business in or with settlements to avoid benefiting from and contributing to serious violations of human rights. Human Rights Watch for several years now has made the position that any business activity in a settlement invariably makes you a part to these very significant abuses. So there’s only one solution, which is to cease operating in settlements, full stop. And that is, there, that is the recommendation that we’ve made to Israeli banks. They need to cease all business activity in or with settlements.

SHARMINI PERIES: And how is this report being received, so far? Do the banks have copies?

OMAR SHAKIR: Of course. I mean, as part of our methodology we always send our research and our findings to those directly involved in the abuse, whether they be companies or corporations. We wrote to each of the seven major banks. We sent them a list of questions. We let them know our tentative findings at the time before we published our report, many weeks in advance. And we got no substantive response from any of the banks. They simply did not provide answers to the questions that we had. I think the reality is you have an entire industry here that is very deeply involved in the entire enterprise of settlement, which of course is the major contributor to serious violations of human rights in the West Bank.

SHARMINI PERIES: And if they’re not paying any attention to the findings of this report or the recommendations you are making, Omar, how can they be held accountable?

OMAR SHAKIR: Sure. So, look, I mean, in addition, of course, to directing our findings to banks, we have other advocacy targets. We’ve issued recommendations here to the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, which is in the process of compiling a database of all businesses that operate in settlements, and we have advised them to include Israeli banks in that listing. We’ve also made, of course, recommendations to the Israeli government, the Bank of Israel, with regards to settlements and the role of banks. And I think, you know, it’s important that banks realize that they have many institutional investors, and many of these institutional investors, many of whom come from Europe, have very strict policies when it comes to investing in companies that are engaged in human rights abuse, including in settlements. So it’s important, you know, for the banks to realize that, and I think it’s also important for those institutional investors to take note of the findings in our report.

SHARMINI PERIES: Omar, I thank you so much for the insights about the report, and I wish you all the best in terms of the advocacy you still need to do with that report. And in the meantime, do we have any indication as to how the court might react to your case of being deported, whether they they will uphold the deportation order?

OMAR SHAKIR: Time will tell. The government is due to respond to our substantive lawsuit on June 21. We’ll be in the District Court in Jerusalem on June 27, and at that point we’ll await a decision from the court. I think it’s hard to read how the court may rule on this decision. It’s certainly only so far engaged on the request for an interim injunction and temporary order. I think in either case it’s quite likely that the party that does not prevail on the merits will ultimately go to the Supreme Court. So we very well may be in for a long legal battle here, but we very much hope that the court will understand the significant threat that this decision and this law poses to thousands of foreigners who live in Israel. In essence it is imposing a political litmus test on entry to a country that proclaims itself to be a democracy. In blocking access to Human Rights Watch staff, Israel joins a group of countries like North Korea, Cuba, and Sudan that have denied access to Human Rights Watch staff.

So we hope that the court here will understand the importance of this issue, in many cases a test for a very draconian law, and even going beyond it. And we hope we’ll be able to continue, as we have for the last three decades, to operate from Israel in the occupied Palestinian territory, and continue doing our work on the ground.

SHARMINI PERIES: All right, Omar, I thank you for joining us, and all the best with the case.

OMAR SHAKIR: Thank you.

SHARMINI PERIES: And thank you for joining us here on The Real News Network.

fly bird (26)
Saturday June 16, 2018, 6:15 am
VIDEO: “Bankrolling Abuse: Israeli Banks in West Bank Settlements” (2/2)

Published on Jun 11, 2018

Omar Shakir, director for Human Rights Watch in Israel-Palestine discusses an investigative report on the illegal role of International and Israeli banks in the West Bank.

Sue H (7)
Saturday June 16, 2018, 10:47 am
Outrageous. :(

Colleen L (3)
Saturday June 16, 2018, 12:10 pm
Totally insane. We want Peace. Thanks Fly

Margie FOURIE (148)
Monday June 18, 2018, 12:18 am
Thank you

Paola S (12)
Monday June 18, 2018, 11:51 am
Thank you for sharing

fly bird (26)
Tuesday June 19, 2018, 2:35 am
300 prominent global figures accuse Israel of committing ‘war crimes’ .

Israel’s forcible transfer of thousands of Palestinians has been denounced as a war crime by over 300 elected officials, legal scholars, academics, artists, faith leaders and activists from around the world.

The universal show of solidarity to the Palestinians was published in an open letter which voiced strong opposition to Israel’s plans to forcibly transfer thousands of Palestinians living in farming-shepherding communities in the occupied West Bank.

Signatories include 90 members of parliament, many of whom are from the EU and UK parliaments. Other notable signatories include ten Israel Prize laureates, film director Ken Loach, artists Ai Weiwei, author Alice Walker, academic Noam Chomsky and several musicians. Dozens of Rabbis have also signed the letter denouncing Israel for what many would describe ethnic cleansing.

Forcible transfer – by direct physical force or by creating a coercive environment that makes residents leave their homes – is a war crime

the letter states.

Mentioning, in particular, residents facing expulsion from three areas; the Jordan Valley, the South Hebron Hills and East Jerusalem, the letter says that Israel “aims to establish facts on the ground that would achieve exclusive de-facto Israeli control in those areas and eventually facilitate formal annexation”.

“Israel’s plans,” the letter points out, “range from freezing Palestinian development, through minimising Palestinian foothold in major parts of the West Bank, to the destruction and transfer of entire communities.” The plans, they add, are being implemented through “coercive measures” which are listed as: not being allowed to build new private or public buildings; denied access to water grids or to pave access roads; demolitions; threats and confiscation of essential equipment.

After denouncing Israel for committing “war crimes” the letter says that “all people responsible for it – including Israeli prime minister and the minister of defence – bear personal responsibility.”

They also accuse Israel’s high court of “rubber stamping” the criminal policies of the Israeli government. “All it does is also implicate Israeli High Court justices in what is nothing short of a war crime, no matter how much legal formalism is enlisted in an effort to excuse the inexcusable,” the letter concludes.

Angela J (61)
Tuesday June 19, 2018, 6:06 pm
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