In February, the UN Human Rights Council released a long-awaited list of 112 companies actively involved in business activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
The list of 112 companies contained within the report refers to a wide range of sectors including construction, food, banks, retail and transport. Most are headquartered in Israel with more than a dozen headquartered internationally.
“The publication of this list is a timely reminder that settlements are illegal and must never be normalized. Listed businesses have no excuse; to continue their involvement in Israeli settlements is to knowingly breach their international obligations,” said Saleh Higazi, Amnesty International’s Middle East Deputy director.
HOW BUSINESSES CONTRIBUTE TO ONGOING HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES IN THE OPT
The Human Rights Council has stated that business activities in the Occupied Territories contribute to and propagate ongoing systematic human rights violations there.
This is done by promoting the development and expansion of illegal settlements and construction of the wall through the supply and provision of:
- construction equipment and materials for these infrastructures;
- surveillance and identification equipment for the settlement-linked checkpoints;
- equipment for the demolition and destruction of Palestinian housing, property, agricultural farms, greenhouses, olives groves and crops;
- security services, equipment and materials for settlement enterprises;
- settlement services, maintenance and utilities, including transport;
- banking and financial operations, including housing and business development loans.
Furthermore, these businesses profit from the settlement enterprise through the use of:
- natural resources, in particular water and land, for business purposes;
- benefits and reinvestments of enterprises owned totally or partially by settlers for developing, expanding and maintaining the settlements.
Meanwhile, the Palestinian population is subject to gross human rights violations and the negative impact of:
- pollution and the dumping of waste in or its transfer to Palestinian villages;
- captivity of the Palestinian financial and economic markets, as well as practices that disadvantage Palestinian enterprises, including through restrictions on movement, administrative and legal constraints.
Several of the companies listed in the UNHRC report are travel-related websites, which offer accommodations and vacation getaways in settlement properties.
Amnesty International’s “Destination: Occupation” campaign focuses on four of these companies: Airbnb, Tripadvisor, Expedia and Booking.com. The report uncovers how digital tourism companies contribute to – and profit from – violations of human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. In direct contradiction with their own corporate standards, they normalize the illegal settlements and contribute to gross human rights violations by doing business in the OPT.
In 2019, Airbnb sparked international outrage after it reversed its decision to remove around 200 properties rented by Israeli settlers in the illegally-occupied West Bank from its website.
“These companies are promoting tourist attractions which are linked to war crimes. This welcome move by the OHCHR must increase pressure on tourism companies to stop listing attractions on stolen land,” said Saleh Higazi.
CANADA’S TRADE AGREEMENT WITH ISRAEL VIOLATES INTERNATIONAL LAW
The Canadian government’s 2019 adoption of Bill C-85 implies that Canada not only accepts the illegal construction of settlement homes and infrastructure on Palestinian land, but is actively contributing to Israeli and international businesses in settlements.
Through the adoption of Bill C85, the Canadian government enables the unlawful appropriation of Palestinian resources, including land, water and minerals, to produce goods that are exported and sold for private profit. In doing so, it fails to meet its obligation under international law not to recognize as lawful an illegal situation. Canada must take immediate action to stop the financial support and expansion of settlements and ban settlement goods from entering its markets.
In 2019, UN Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk and Amnesty International Canada’s Secretary General, Alex Neve, had this to say:
“The Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement […] provides encouragement to the economic growth of the settlements by allowing their goods and services to enter Canada tariff-free.
Treating the Israeli settlements as part of Israel, and extending the benefits of our open market to settlements’ goods and services, entangles Canada in the serious violations of both international human rights and humanitarian law that are part and parcel of the Israeli occupation.
With its eyes wide open, the Canadian government is extending economic benefits and political cover to an illegal enterprise at a time when these settlements are undermining the chances for peace and generating systematic human rights violations.”
STOP PROFITING FROM WAR CRIMES
Under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, companies are required to “avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts through their own activities and address such impacts when they occur.”
Amnesty International is thereby calling for both the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to work in collaboration with other stakeholders to ensure that the list of companies is regularly updated and predictably financed, with clear reporting time frames, to allow for continued scrutiny of businesses linked to human rights violations in the OPT. Furthermore, we call on these companies to comply with their international responsibilities and stop doing business in the settlements.
Amnesty Canada continues to call upon the government of Canada to ensure that the federal government accepts and complies with its binding obligations under international law and Canadian law by taking all necessary steps to halt the financial support and assistance provided to the illegal Israeli settlements by prohibiting all settlement goods and services from entering the Canadian market.
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