The UK government has published guidance warning businesses about the problems and risks associated with doing business with illegal Israeli settlements and related activities in occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.
Published on the Israel page of the British Department of Trade and Industry website, the guidance warns that there are “clear risks related to economic and financial activities in the settlements, and we do not encourage or offer support to such activity”.
The document urges firms to take legal advice and consider “possible abuses of the rights of individuals” involved in doing business with illegal Israeli settlements.
Welcoming this guidance as a step in the right direction, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society, called for more practical measures to bring about British compliance with its obligations under international law.
Many major UK retailers purchase fresh fruit and vegetables from Israeli firms operating in illegal Israeli settlements. Other British firms, such as construction equipment manufacturer JCB, have extensive business involvement in Israel’s illegal settlements, whether in the construction of settlements, settlement roads and Israeli occupation-related installations and facilities.
“The UK government has realized that its condemnations of illegal settlements are falling on deaf ears and has started to address the huge amount of economic support that the illegal settlements receive from UK businesses,” said Rafeef Ziadah, a BNC spokesperson.
“The government should now make it absolutely clear to companies like G4S that it is unacceptable to participate in Israel’s illegal settlements or in Israel’s other human rights abuses,” Ziadah added.
British security company G4S provides equipment to Israeli military checkpoints and to private businesses in illegal Israeli settlements and to prisons at which Palestinian political prisoners are held without trial and tortured. The company has lost contracts with universities in the UK and Norway over its involvement in Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
The BDS movement urges a boycott of Israel and practical, gradual measures, including sanctions, by world governments to end their complicity in maintaining Israel’s regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid against the Palestinian people.