More than 670 European financial institutions have ties with companies that are involved in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, a civil society report said Wednesday.
The report from a group of 25 Palestinian, regional and European organisations called on the companies “to end all investments and financial flows” into the settlements, which are considered illegal under international law.
The findings detail financial dealings worth $255 billion between 2018 and May 2021 directly or indirectly linked to the settlements — including loans or share and bond purchases — involving major European firms like BNP Paribas and Deutsche Bank.
More than 600,000 Israeli Jews live in settlements in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, Palestinian territories captured by Israel in the Six-Day War of 1967.
Many large Israeli companies are active in those communities, including leading banks like Leumi and Hapoalim, telecom and internet providers and supermarket chains, among others.
The report is not an account of financial dealings directly occurring in Israeli settlements.
For example, many of the European companies named have been implicated because they hold shares in non-Israeli firms, like machinery giant Caterpillar, whose products have been used in settlements.
The Don’t Buy Into Occupation coalition that authored the report said these European companies “have a responsibility to ensure that they are not involved in violations of international law and are not complicit in international crimes”.
Last year, the United Nations released a list of 112 companies with activities in Israeli settlements, including Airbnb, Expedia and TripAdvisor.
The list was produced by the UN human rights office in response to a Human Rights Council resolution demanding a “database” of firms that profited from business in occupied Palestinian territory.
The UN move, fiercely condemned by Israel and cheered by Palestinians, was seen as a victory for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which seeks to isolate the Jewish state over what it describes as the mistreatment of Palestinians.
A decision by American ice cream-maker Ben & Jerry’s in July to stop selling their products in the occupied Palestinian territories also drew harsh criticism from Israel and applause from BDS activists.
More than three million Palestinians live in the West Bank and Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.