JERUSALEM — Companies operating in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank contribute to “an inherently unlawful and abusive system” violating Palestinian rights and should halt activity there, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday. The new report from the U.S.-based rights group describes Israeli policies in the West Bank that lead to government support of settlements, the “unlawful confiscation” of Palestinian land and denial of permits to Palestinians. According to the report, which cites examples of foreign firms linked to settlements, including cement and real estate companies, “Israel’s privileged treatment of settlers extends to virtually every aspect of life in the West Bank.”
“Settlement businesses unavoidably contribute to Israeli policies that dispossess and harshly discriminate against Palestinians, while profiting from Israel’s theft of Palestinian land and other resources,” HRW’s Arvind Ganesan said in a statement.
“The only way for businesses to comply with their own human rights responsibilities is to stop working with and in Israeli settlements.” Israel’s foreign ministry said officials were studying the report, but called it “one-sided.” “At a time when Israel and the international community are taking practical steps to bolster the Palestinian economy and increase Palestinian employment, Israel is concerned with this one-sided, politicized report, which jeopardizes the livelihoods of thousands of Palestinians and discourages rare examples of coexistence, coordination and cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians,” it said. Israel occupied the West Bank in the 1967 Six Day War and more than 500,000 Israeli settlers now live in the territory and in east Jerusalem. The 1990s Oslo accords divided the West Bank into zones known as Areas A, B and C.