Sunday, November 4

Trading Away Peace - How Europe helps sustain illegal Israeli settlements

– On 30 October a coalition of 22 leading European organisations released a report on the EU’s economic relationship with Israeli settlements –Trading Away Peace: How Europe helps to sustain illegal Israeli settlements. The foreword to the report was written by Hans van den Broek, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands (1982-1993) and former EU Commissioner for External Relations (1993-1999).
The report describes the settlements as follows: “Israeli settlements are communities established on territories occupied by Israel since 1967. Today there are more than 500,000 Israeli settlers living across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Settlements control more than 42% of the West Bank’s land and the majority of its water and natural resources.”
The report focuses on highlighting the disparity between what the EU says in regards to the settlements, and what it actually does in practice.

What the EU says about the settlements
The report notes that the EU’s position on the settlements is “absolutely clear”. “Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory are ‘illegal under international law, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible.’”

What the EU actually does in practice
Each year, the EU imports approximately EUR 230m (US$300m) worth of goods from the settlements, or 15 times the value of EU imports from Palestinians. Or to put it another way, the EU imports over 100 times more per settler than per Palestinian. The most common import from the settlements is agricultural produce, such as citrus and dates.

The report notes that: “[D]espite its firm position that settlements are not part of Israel, Europe has been accepting imports of these settlements products with origin designated as ‘Israel’, thus acquiescing to Israel’s extension of its sovereignty over the occupied territory. Many of these products are sold in European stores under the misleading label ‘Made in Israel’, denying consumers their right, under existing EU consumer protection legislation, to make informed decisions when they shop. As a result, many European consumers are unwittingly supporting the settlements and the attendant violations of human rights.”
Further, a number of European companies have invested in the settlements and provide them with services. The report specifically names: G4S (UK/Denmark); Alstom (France); Veolia (France); and Heidelberg Cement (Germany).
The report continues: "[A]dding to the contradictions at the heart of EU policy towards Israel’s illegal settlements, the EU has failed to fully exclude settlements from the benefits of its cooperation programmes and bilateral agreements with Israel.” The report also refers to the newly ratified EU-Israel Agreement on Conformity Assessment and Acceptance of Industrial Products (ACAA), as another example of the EU’s failure to adequately distinguish between Israel proper and the illegal settlements.

Discrimination and human rights violations as a result of settlement activity
The report further notes that: “[T]hrough the establishment of settlements, successive Israeli governments have created a discriminatory two-tier system in the West Bank with settlers enjoying all the rights and benefits of Israeli citizenship, and Palestinians subject to Israeli military laws that deprive them of their fundamental rights.
The discriminatory legal systems applied by Israel in the West Bank has overseen the incarceration of over 730,000 Palestinian men, women and children since 1967 and was the subject of a recent joint submissionby DCI and WCLAC to the UN. The submission noted that the settlements, and their associated infrastructure, act as friction points where numerous human rights violations occur, involving men, women and children.

Practical solutions
The report notes that: “[T]he many linkages with settlements are inconsistent with Europe’s obligations under international law, which stipulates that third parties, including European governments, have the duty not to recognise, aid or assist settlements as well as a duty to effectively oppose them.” Based on this legal obligation, the report makes a number of practical recommendations, including:
• Ensure correct consumer labelling. As a more comprehensive option, ban imports of settlement products, as called for by Ireland.
• Exclude settlement products and companies from public procurement tenders. This would include European companies associated with the settlements, such as G4S.
• Remove organisations funding settlements from tax deduction systems, as done in Norway.
• Draw up a list of companies misstating the origin of settlement goods as “Israel” as requested by the European Parliament.
Van den Broek concludes that the practical measures recommended by the report “directed only at illegal settlements […] do not constitute an anti-Israel agenda. On the contrary, the preservation of the two-state solution, in accordance with international law, should be seen as a contribution to Israel’s security and legitimacy.”

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