Doing Business with Israel: Increasingly Problematic

20 Jun

[Note: Published below is a letter prepared by the European Coordination of Committee and Associations for Palestine (ECCP) and endorsed by John Dugard, Michael Mansfield, Eric David, and myself; it urges adherence to guidelines relating to corporate and financial activity with unlawful economic activities in Israel and occupied Palestine, and is guided by principles similar to the BDS campaign; it is notable that on June 20th the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church by a close vote (310-303) voted to divest itself of $21 million dollars worth of shares in three corporations (Motorola Solutions, Hewlett-Packard, Caterpillar) engaged in legally and morally objectionable activities supportive of Israel's occupation of Palestine. There is a growing momentum associated with this new nonviolent militancy associated with the global solidarity movement supportive of the Palestinian struggle to gain a just peace, including realization of rights under international law. This nonviolent turn is being directly challenged by the rise of ISIS in the region that relies on unrestrained violence and promises the liberation of Palestine.]

European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine (ECCP)

On 24-26 June, 37 European companies from 11 EU Member States will travel to Israel as a part of an EU led “Mission for growth” project that aims to “promote partnerships between Israeli and European companies 
active in sectors identified as leading and developing industries in Israel.” Among Israeli companies participating in the “Mission for growth” are those deeply complicit in Israel’s occupation and apartheid policy. The previous delegation of “Mission for growth” took place on 22-23 October last year in Israel, where 97 european companies from 23 EU Member States meet with 215 Israeli companies from the different industrial sectors. In this open letter supported by Richard FalkJohn DugardMichael Mansfield and Eric David, ECCP member organisations call on the European companies to abandon their plans to be involved in the project. Letter to the participants of EU led “Mission for growth”: We, the undersigned members of ECCP – the European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine (ECCP) – a leading network of 47 organisations, NGO’s, unions and human rights organisations from 21 European countries are writing to you about your company’s participation in the recent EU-led mission to Israel named “Mission for growth” with the stated purpose of forging business ties with Israeli companies.

We are writing to make you aware about the legal, economic and reputational consequences to your business if these deals go ahead. According to the Israeli research center, WhoProfits, Israeli participants in “Mission for growth” programme directly contribute to and are complicit in acts that are illegal under international law. For example Elbit Systems, an Israeli military company is involved in the ongoing construction of Israel’s Wall, ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004.(see Annex) Recognizing these grave violations in 2009, Norway’s sovereign wealth fund divested from Elbit Systems.1 We would like to remind you that business involvement in Israel contains legal implications. According to international law as applied in the 2004 International Court of Justice advisory opinion on Israel’s wall and settlements, third party states are violating their own obligations to not recognize nor render aid or assistance to these serious Israeli violations by allowing financial and economic activity with complicit entities. Since last year, the government of the Netherlands have taken the proactive step to warn companies domiciled in its territory of the legal implications of ties with Israeli companies with activities in the occupied territories. As a result, Vitens, the Netherlands’ largest water supplier, broke an agreement with Mekorot, Israel’s public water company, due to its role in plundering water from Palestinian aquifers in the West Bank.2

PGGM, the largest Dutch pension fund followed suit and divested from all Israeli banks due to “their involvement in financing Israeli settlements.”3 The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, supported by the EU and adopted by the UN Human Rights Council, explain that businesses must respect human rights and international humanitarian law. The Principles also urge states to withdraw support and not procure services from companies that persistently violate human rights.4 In September 2012, the UN General Assembly adopted a report on corporate complicity related to the illegal Israeli settlements by Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967. The report urges states to take steps to hold businesses accountable for their participation in Israeli violations of international law and to take steps to end business involvement in illegal Israeli settlements5 In March 2013, UN Human Rights Council adopted the report of the Independent Fact Finding Mission on the Israeli settlements. The Fact Finding Mission affirmed that involvement in settlement activities falls under the jurisdiction of the ICC and may result in criminal responsibility. Almost all Israeli companies are deeply complicit, directly or indirectly, in the oppression of Palestinians including its IT sector by drawing expertise from Israel’s military complex and Israel’s manufacturing companies, some based in settlements, with distribution outlets in settlements, helping to sustain them. By participating in the project and cooperating with Israeli companies involved in illegal Israeli settlements and military industry your company would be making a political decision to become deeply complicit with Israel’s violations of international law and Israel’s oppression of Palestinian rights. As such, your company would become a legitimate target for popular boycotts, divestments, protests and sustained campaigns to penalize your involvement and causing you economic losses similar to the loses already inflicted on French-company Veolia for its involvement in the settlement enterprise and British security company G4S6. The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, from which we draw our strength, has been growing at the global level since its launch in 2005 of which the Economist magazine says it “is turning mainstream.”7 The BDS movement has consistently targeted complicit Israeli and international corporations — involved in Israel’s occupation, settlements and other international law infringements — such as SodaStream, G4S, Ahava, Mekorot, Elbit, Veolia, Caterpillar, Africa Israel, all Israeli banks, among others, with significant success and enormous reputational risks8. We will therefore monitor your company for business ties with Israel and urge you to abandon potential plans to cooperate with Israeli companies violating international law and human rights. Sincerely , European Coordination of Committees and Associations for Palestine (ECCP)

Endorsed by: Richard Falk -UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteur for Palestine, 2008-2014 and Milbank Professor of International Law, Emeritus, Princeton University John Dugard – Professor Emeritus, University of Leiden, Former UN Special rapporteur on the situation of Human rights in the occupied palestinian Territory Michael Mansfield – Professor of Law, President of the Haldane Society and Amicus; practising Human Rights lawyer for 45 years Eric David – Law Professor, Free University of Brussels

*****************

Annex: Israeli participants in “Mission for growth” project violating human rights and international law -

Ahava Dead Sea Laboratories – a private Israeli cosmetics corporation which operates from the occupied West Bank. Ahava is the only company which sells Dead Sea cosmetics and islocated in the occupied area of the Dead Sea. The Ahava factory and visitors’ center is located in the Mitzpe Shalem settlement, on the shore of the Dead Sea in the occupied part of the Jordan Valley and a large percentage of Ahava shares are held by two Israeli West Bank settlements.

9Afcon Holdings- The group engages in the design, manufacture, integration and marketing of electro-mechanical and control systems. A subsidiary of the group – Afcon Control and Automation has supplied CEIA metal detectors to Israeli military checkpoints in the occupied Palestinian territories; such as the Hebron Machpela Cave Checkpoint, the Beit Iba checkpoint and the Erez Terminal in Gaza, as well as checkpoints in the occupied Jordan Valley. Additionally, in 2009 the Afcon has supplied services to the Jerusalem light train project, which connects the settlement neighbourhoods in occupied East Jerusalem with the city center. The company also supplies services to the Israeli Army, Israeli prison service and the Israeli police.

10El-Go Team – Provider of security gates. Vehicle gates and turnstiles of the company are installed at Qalandia, Huwwara and Beit Iba checkpoints restricting the occupied Palestinian population movement in the occupied territory.

11 - Elbit Vision Systems - the company manufactured electronic surveillance systems (LORROS cameras) to the separation wall project in the Ariel section. The company is a wholly owned subsidiary of Elbit Systems.

12Gila satellite network- Provider of satellite communication services. Antennas of the company are installed in checkpoints across the West Bank: Azzun Atma, Beit Iba and Anata – Shu’afat refugee camp. The company has also provided the Israeli Army with the VAST (very small aperture terminal) satellite communications system. Several satellite dishes were installed on armoured personnel carriers.

13Netafim – A global private company of irrigation technology, which also provides services and training to farmers and agriculture companies around the world. The company provides irrigation technologies and services to the settlements’ regional council of Mount Hebron and the settlement of Maskiut. The company’s employees volunteered in the Israeli army’s combat unit Oketz. The company employs 4000 employees, owns 16 manufacturing factories in 11 states and over 27 subsidiaries and representatives in over 110 countries. - LDD Tech - provides services to gas stations in settlements in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.

1 http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB125197496278482849

2 http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.562769

3 https://www.pggm.nl/english/what-we-do/Documents/Statement%20PGGM%20exclusion%20Israeli%20banks.pdf

4 http://www.business-humanrights.org/UNGuidingPrinciplesPortal/TextUNGuidingPrinciples

5 http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43376#.UZH-eSvWyqw

6 http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-06-06/gates-foundation-sells-stake-in-u-k-security-company-g4s.html

7 http://www.economist.com/news/middle-east-and-africa/21595948-israels-politicians-sound-rattled-campaign-isolate-their-country

8 http://mondoweiss.net/2014/05/barclays-downgrades-sodastream.html

9 http://www.whoprofits.org/company/ahava-dead-sea-laboratories

10 http://www.whoprofits.org/company/afcon-holdings

11 http://www.whoprofits.org/company/el-go-team

12 http://www.whoprofits.org/company/elbit-systems

13 http://www.whoprofits.org/company/gilat-satellite-networks

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2 Responses to “Doing Business with Israel: Increasingly Problematic”

  1. Dan Livni June 21, 2014 at 5:50 pm #

    How BDS terrorizes people to who oppose Palestinian fascism.

    http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/169801#.Ud2hMKyE69g
    Paul McCartney: They Threatened to Kill Me if I Played in Israel
    Artists who perform in Israel aren’t just worried about selling tickets, but about their safety, as they are targeted by BDS groups.
    David Lev
    7/10/2013

    When rock legend Paul McCartney came to Israel in 2008, he was, at least to some extent, taking his life in his hands. Not because of Israel’s sometimes precarious security situation, but because he was threatened by BDS (boycott, divest, and sanction) anti-Israel groups. “I got death threats, but I’m coming anyway,” the singer was quoted as saying by Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs researcher Adam Shay.

    “I got explicit death threats, but I have no intention of surrendering. I refuse to cancel my performances in Israel,” Shay quoted McCartney as saying.

    The former Beatle is not alone.

    Dozens of other artists who schedule dates in Israel are lobbied, bullied, threatened, and even attacked at concerts by anti-Israel groups who are bent on isolating Israel culturally, as well as economically. Many artists, said Shay, claimed that their web sites have been attacked by hackers right before their Israeli concerts.

    Alicia Keys, who recently played a concert here last week, supplies the latest example of intimidation faced by artists who play Israel. Several of her fellow singers – notably Elvis Costello and Roger Waters – urged her to cancel, calling Israel an “apartheid state,” and Keys’ Facebook page was littered with condemnations of her on the day of the concert. Costello himself cancelled a concert in Israel in 2010, as did Carlos Santana, after being hectored by anti-Israel groups. Other notables who have cancelled planned concerts in Israel are Jon Bon Jovi, the Yardbirds, Joe Lynn Turner, and the Pixies. Spanish singer Paco Ibanez went one better, telling a French newspaper that he is boycotting the Hebrew language, which he can speak, for political reasons.

    But despite the pressure and threats, there are many artists who continue to play Israel. In the past month, rock bands Deep Purple and the Pet Shop Boys have held concerts in Israel, and American artist Rihanna is scheduled to take her second tour here in October. And of course, there was Madonna.

    Many of these artists, Shay said, decided to perform in Israel despite the threats. “When singer Moby was interviewed on Army Radio shortly before he performed in Israel, he said that the intensity of the attacks against him before he came to Israel made him suspect that this wasn’t an objective movement that was concerned with people’s welfare, but with something dark and dubious.” Unfortunately, though, “most artists just don’t want to deal with it. It’s much easier for them to release a statement that they won’t be appearing in Israel ‘for reasons of conscience’ rather than to say their lives are being threatened and they’re frightened.”

    • Dan Livni June 21, 2014 at 5:57 pm #

      The wall is not the tragedy; the tragedy is the reason for the wall. Thank you for speaking truth, Raheem. I live near the place where Kristine was murdered and Kay was repeatedly stabbed. It was our family picnic spot. Is there anywhere that Jewish people can live without fear of being persecuted or killed just because they are Jews? I wonder how those in the UK who condemn Israel would respond if they had 10,000 missiles fall in their neighborhoods, as Israelis in the south have? Or if their children were bombed on buses or in pizza shops or slain in their beds as ours have been?

      Why is the outcry about the wall instead of against the terrorism which made the wall a life-saving necessity? Instead of vilifying Israel, these people who care for justice should study the history of Israel and of the UK, and ask forgiveness of the Jewish people for turning them away from the shores of Israel and sending them back to Hitler’s ovens or for holding them in detention camps in Israel and Cypress with inadequate food, clothing and sanitation.

      When crying out for human rights, the right of Israelis to live in the small land of Israel in peace, should not be overlooked. Please read the Balfour Declaration and look at the maps of the land allotted to the Jewish people by the League of Nations. We are living on a fraction of the land which we were promised. We want our children to be able to ride a bus or eat a pizza or sleep in their beds in safety; thus, the wall, which has drastically reduced terrorism and saved countless lives of Jews and Arabs in Israel.

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