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 today the Presbyterian Church by a close vote (310-303) voted to divest itself of shares in three corporations engaged in legally and morally objectionable activities in Israel. 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.]

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.9

Afcon 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.10

El-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.12

Gila 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.13

Netafim – 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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5 Responses to “Doing Business with Israel: Increasingly Problematic”

  1. Michael June 20, 2014 at 7:44 pm #

    Thank you for reminding me to send in an order for Ahava moisturizer!

  2. Rabbi Ira Youdovin June 20, 2014 at 8:44 pm #

    In order to engender a more complete understanding of yesterday’s decision by the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the impact of the so-called BDS “movement” worldwide, I’m posting the following:

    1. The complete text of the PC(USA) resolution. Please note that it specifically and unambiguously separates itself from global BDSt, and endorses things, such as Israel’s right to exist and a two-state
    solution, that are an anathema to many of BDS’s most vocal supporters.

    2. An article published earlier this week in Haaretz, Israel’s leading daily newspaper which opposes the Occupation.

    Rabbi Ira Youdovin

    From the New York Times

    “The measure that was passed not only called for divestment but also reaffirmed Israel’s right to exist, endorsed a two-state solution, encouraged interfaith dialogue and travel to the Holy Land, and instructed the church to undertake “positive investment” in endeavors that advance peace and improve the lives of Israelis and Palestinians. It also said the motion was “not to be construed” as “alignment with or endorsement of the global B.D.S.” movement by the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The language was written by the church’s 65-member Middle East committee.”

    Why the BDS movement is such a colossal flop
    The boycott movement’s newest claims are the Presbyterian Church, Sinead O’Connor and Bill Gates. But there’s no need to be worried.
    By David Rosenberg | Jun. 19, 2014 | 5:50 PM | 4

    It looks like good times again for the boycott, sanctions, divestment movement. The Presbyterian Church (USA) is again voting on whether to impose sanctions, Sinead O’Connor may or may not be cancelling a performance in Israel and Bill Gates sold his shares in G4S, a European security company that provides equipment to Israeli prisons.
    Even a loss for BDS like the vote of the Modern Language Association, an important U.S. academic group, can be seen as a victory of sorts. A resolution asking the State Department to pressure Israel to freely allow overseas Palestinian academics into the West Bank failed to muster the minimum percentage of votes needed to pass, but the movement did succeed in getting the issue on the agenda and a majority of votes were cast in favor.
    As usual, however, with BDS appearances are deceiving. As The Financial Times wrote in a June 14 article “Orchestrated boycott of Israeli companies falter, ” the last wave of supposed BDS achievements last winter turned out to be a lot about nothing. Here is why this one will end up being the same.

    Lots of ado

    No momentum: After a big hue and cry over Dutch pension fund PGGM and Denmark’s Danske Bank making some tentative steps to divest, nothing else happened. ABP, the biggest Dutch pension fund, and a large Scandinavian investment house Nordea Investment Management have said they would not follow suit. The FT reported that a Dutch fund manager believed PGGM regretted getting into the battle and inadvertently becoming a poster boy for BDS. “I don’t think [PGGM] expected it to become a worldwide story,” he said,

    No fire, but lots of smoke: But PGGM probably didn’t understand how the BDS movement’s modus operandi: Take credit for any action if it can at all plausibly be connected with the boycott, dub it the beginning of a mass wave of divestment and barrage the media.
    Thus, when the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Bill’s private investment vehicle, Cascade Investment, reduced their stake in the G4S, the BDS movement was all aflutter. “Thanks to everyone who joined the campaign, signed the petition and participated in the protests,” said War on Want, a British charity that bizarrely is engaged in fighting global poverty around the world, except in Israel/Palestine where it has joined the BDS drive with gusto.

    But the foundation didn’t divest its holding, it simply went down from a 3.2% stake to an undisclosed figure under 3%. Nor did the foundation ever say why it sold the shares, but a good guess can be derived from G4S’s share price performance: The price plummeted the month before the foundation and Cascade bought the stock, but failed to recover much in the year following.

    Prima facie, it appears Gates was hedging his bet by reducing the holding, not in response to protests and certainly nor because he wants to isolate Israel. After all, his company Microsoft has a large research and development center in Haifa, a technology accelerator in Herzliya and announced this month it was setting up a second one. Not to mention that the company itself does extensive work with the Israeli government and the army and is a serial acquirer of Israeli startups.

    Poor choice of friends: Grocery cooperatives, leftish community activists and student councils at liberal universities are all happy to join the boycott. But BDS has failed to make headway with the people and organizations that count — with governments, big companies, investors or opinion leaders.

    The Financial Times story about the faltering boycott against Israel asked 15 of world’s largest fund houses how they applied their ethical investment principles in the case of Israel’s occupation, half declined to comment or said they had no view; the other half didn’t answer at all
    .
    Even the Presbyterian Church is marginal. It sounds like a pillar of the American establishment but, in fact, it has only 1.8 million or so members and the number is declining rapidly. A quick perusal of an anti-Israel screed called “Zionism Unsettled” shows that among some there is serious antipathy toward the Jewish state, but the church’s broader membership has so far failed to support even the very limited divestment proposals brought to it, which strangely call for selling the church’s stock in three American companies, rather than divesting from Israel.

    No interest /commitment: The BDS movement hasn’t come close to convincing the broad public that Israel deserves their special attention. In the Modern Language Association, it couldn’t muster up enough people to vote yes this month for a mild resolution asking the State Department to pressure Israel to allow Palestinian academics into West Bank and Gaza.

    Even among the best of its friends, few are willing to make any personal sacrifice for the sake of Palestine: BDSers never ask anyone student or coop shopper to actually boycott a product they actually use because they know it would fail. The people who can congratulate themselves by raising a clenched fist and vote to boycott Israel are almost always asking someone else to take a moral stance as is the case with the Gates Foundation. They are quite willing to demand their Gates or their university or some investment fund sell Israel-related stocks, but ask them to boycott Microsoft by not using Windows?

    No chance: BDS likes to present itself as a moral stick swatting away at businesses and people who should know better than to be collaborating with an oppressive Israeli regime. But businesses know perfectly well what they would be risking by acceding to the movement’s demands. The world is full of bad behavior, of which Israel is by no means the only or worst offender. If they concede on Israel where will that leave them vis a vis China, Russia and India, which all control disputed areas, or for that matter the U.S. government?
    The Presbyterian Church is being asked to boycott HP, among other targets, because it sells hardware to the Israeli Navy and for use at West Bank checkpoints, and has done some business with Israeli settlements, all of which counts as complicity with the occupation.

    But by that standard HP is complicit all over the world in human rights offenses. The company has billions of dollars in contracts with the U.S. armed forces, which have committed atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan and has a poor record in dealing with sexual harassment in its ranks. For years, HP’s Chinese suppliers were apparently using forced student labor. In Russia, it is associated with a country that has invaded two neighbors, routinely violates human rights and enforces anti-gay legislation.

    To say that of all the business HP does around the world, its dealings with Israel are those ones that deserve special condemnation. As the United Nations translator remarked last November after the General Assembly adopted nine resolutions against Israel, “There’s other really bad shit happening [around the world], but no one says anything, about the other stuff.”

  3. Gene Schulman June 21, 2014 at 1:23 am #

    Richard, thanks for your continued support of Palestine and keeping us informed with such articles like this. I morally add my own endorsement to this letter alongside yours, Dugard, et al.

    I put zero credibility in the above NYTimes article cited by Youdovan minimizing the importance of all those divestment actions cited. (We all know that this newspaper is an organ of the Lobby.) They ARE important.

  4. wingsprd June 21, 2014 at 2:20 am #

    The long, convoluted article by rabbi youdovin, and the callous comment by michael, above, only show that supporters of Israel and its murderous tactics are afraid and unwilling to see the truth or to acknowledge the human rights of others. Keep informing us Richard, always honourable.

  5. Oldguyincolorado June 28, 2014 at 12:32 pm #

    Do we all forget that in recent polls the vast majority of Palestinians endorse a program which totally opposes a two state solution? They seek to destroy Israel on religious grounds. So how is Israel supposed to deal with that? The Arab does not want two states, just one. Theirs. Once you understand that, all of the rest should become clear to you.

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