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Business as usual in Palestine?

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Statement
Written by:
Written by: Lydia de Leeuw
Published on:
reading time 3 minutes

Part and parcel of an apartheid system

In the context of any armed conflict, companies and investors are required to apply heightened human rights due diligence(opens in new window) to avoid adverse impacts from their operations, supply chains, and investments. This due diligence should be proportionate to the scale and severity of risks their operations and business interests pose to human rights, ensuring they neither contribute to nor profit from the conflict. Corporate actors (both companies and their senior leadership) may face legal liability if they become involved in crimes under international law, including genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

However, in Palestine, over decades of brutal occupation, annexation, and forced displacement, corporations have become part and parcel of a system that oppresses Palestinians and unlawfully extracts their natural resources. Amnesty International(opens in new window) , Human Rights Watch(opens in new window) , and SOMO’s Palestinian partner organisation Al-Haq(opens in new window) , have correctly labelled this as a system of apartheid, which is also a crime under international law. This crime is exacerbated by multinational corporations, whose involvement in human rights abuses has been well documented. 

The United Nations has published a database(opens in new window) listing businesses operating in illegal Israeli settlements in violation of international law. Regrettably, the countries where these businesses are based, including the United States, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Spain, and France, have yet to enact effective measures to hold their corporations accountable. 

Business as usual, even after 7 October

Since the 7 October 2023 Hamas-led attack on Israel, the 2.3 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip have faced relentless military attacks, forced displacement, and a siege, leading to thirst, starvation, disease, and widespread death and suffering. There have been repeated warnings of a potential genocide(opens in new window) following 16 years of an unlawful blockade(opens in new window) imposed on the territory. The deliberate communication shutdowns and denial of vital supplies like water(opens in new window) , food, fuel(opens in new window) , and electricity are acts that amount to the collective punishment(opens in new window) of a civilian population, constituting a war crime. Corporate complicity in these acts must be promptly addressed. In particular, arms sales and transfers to Israel have raised questions(opens in new window) about corporate complicity in potential human rights violations and breaches of international law.

The image illustrates the topic of the piece: Business as usual in Palestine Human Rights Due Diligence
Palestinians inspect the damage following an Israeli airstrike on the El-Remal area in Gaza City on October 9, 2023. Photo by Naaman Omar\ apaimages

Since the beginning of 2023, and especially after 7 October, Israeli forces and settlers have also escalated their attacks against Palestinians and their properties in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. These actions have resulted in death, injury, and forced displacement(opens in new window) of entire communities. Additionally, there has been a significant increase(opens in new window) in arbitrary arrests and torture of Palestinians in detention. Over the past decades, multinationals have been challenged for their involvement in the detention industry, settlement construction, and home demolitions in the West Bank.

SOMO’s investigations

In collaboration with partner organisations, SOMO’s research exposes the corporate impunity that characterises the business-as-usual approach of many multinationals operating in occupied Palestine. Through activities like tourism and the unlawful exploitation of Palestinian natural resources such as stone, gas, and agricultural products, these corporations actively support Israel’s illegal settlement economy.
 

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Posted in category:
Statement
Written by:
Written by: Lydia de Leeuw
Published on:

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