OCCUPIED WEST BANK, PALESTINE — Nearly 700 European firms have financial ties worth $255 billion with businesses actively involved in Israeli settlements, according to a new civil society report.
The Don’t Buy Into Occupation (DBIO) coalition is a joint project between 25 Palestinian and European non-governmental organizations investigating the business connections between companies operating in illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (oPT) and European financial institutions. The coalition’s latest research found 672 European financial institutions had relationships with 50 businesses participating in Israel’s settlement economy. Between 2018 and May 2021, major European firms provided loans and underwritings amounting to $114 billion to these businesses while investing $141 billion.
“The involvement of these corporations with the settlements — through investments, banking loans, resource extraction, infrastructure contracts, and equipment and product supply agreements — provides them with the indispensable economic oxygen they require to grow and thrive,” Michael Lynk, UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Palestinian Territory Occupied since 1967, wrote in the report.
The DBIO coalition found that the top 10 creditors collectively gave $77.81 billion to businesses involved in the Israeli settlements. These firms are BNP Paribas, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, Barclays, Société Générale, Santander, ING Group, Commerzbank, UniCredit, and Crédit Agricole. And the top 10 investors — Deutsche Bank, Crédit Agricole, Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), Investor AB, BPCE Group, Allianz, Swedbank, Legal & General, AB Industrivärden, and Alecta — contributed $67.22 billion.
The coalition reached out to 138 firms as well as three corporations highlighted in the report and additional businesses the coalition found to be heavily involved in the settlement economy. Booking.com, BNP Paribas, and HeidelbergCement and 21 financial institutions responded to the report’s results.
Replies varied, with some banks wanting to set up meetings to further discuss the findings while other institutions said they’ve already investigated human rights concerns with their business partners. The report’s authors declined to disclose with which institutions they are meeting, but DBIO said they plan to publish updates in the future.
“Some of them claim they did their human rights due diligence, but still decided to be involved in a settlement enterprise, which is quite against any of the suggestions or analysis of human rights experts,” Dr. Anna Khdair — a legal researcher at Al-Haq, a Palestinian human rights organization, and one of the report’s co-drafters — told MintPress News.
Other institutions said any ties to Israeli settlements are not within their sphere of decision-making because settlements are legal under Israeli law. While they are warranted by Israel, settlements are illegal under international law.
“So, we still have a lot of work to do to explain how the settlement enterprise actually works and how much it is connected to the Israeli economy, [while] Israel itself will not provide enough information or transparency about those links with the illegal settlement enterprise,” Khdair said.