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European financiers extensively funding cos linked to Israel’s 'illegal' settlements

By Giulia Barbos* 
Updated research reveals, for the third year in a row, billions worth of loans, underwriting, shares and bonds of 776 European banks, asset managers, insurance companies and pension funds in 51 companies that are involved in violations of human rights and international law.
European financial institutions held a significant USD 144.7 billion in shares and bonds in the 51 companies, while providing USD 164.2 billion in lending and underwriting to such companies. The findings cover the period from January 2020 to August 2023.
The new report from the Don’t Buy Into Occupation (DBIO) Coalition reveals that hundreds of European financial institutions remain heavily invested in companies shoring up illegal Israeli residential, agricultural and industrial settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Company activities include settlement construction, service provision, demolition of homes, and surveillance.
While these companies also conduct activities outside of the illegal settlement enterprise, financial institutions – regardless of their size or the proportion of the financial flows going into the settlement industry – still have a responsibility to use their leverage to prevent, mitigate, and address potential adverse impacts due to their involvement in violations and grave breaches of international human rights and humanitarian law that may amount to international crimes.
The 51 companies identified include prominent names such as Airbnb, Carrefour, Cisco Systems, IBM, Puma, Siemens, and Volvo Group, all involved in activities raising human rights concerns, whereas some have already been listed in the UN database of businesses linked to Israeli settlements.
The Israeli government persistently promotes, facilitates and enables the expansion of settlements in the occupied West Bank and Jerusalem, further solidifying Israel's control over the Palestinian population and annexation of occupied territories.
Israeli settlements – which are illegal under international law and amount to a war crime and crimes against humanity – rely for their maintenance and expansion on the extensive appropriation of Palestinian land, the unlawful population transfers in and out of occupied territory, and the unlawful exploitation of natural resources, namely land and water. 
Settlements deny Palestinians a myriad of their human rights, including freedom of movement, liberty and security, an adequate standard of living, self-determination and sovereignty over natural resources, among others. State-sponsored settler violence against Palestinian communities, involving killing, other forms of physical violence, and intimidation, torching of homes, fields and livestock, is alarmingly on the increase and has driven entire Palestinian communities to be forcibly displaced.
Noteworthy among the findings are the top creditors providing USD 116.55 billion in loans and underwriting, led by BNP Paribas (France) with USD 22.19 billion, and the top investors contributing USD 66.36 billion in shareholdings and bond holdings, led by the Government Pension Fund Global (Norway) with USD 13.16 billion.
This year’s report shows BNP Paribas, HSBC, Deutsche Bank, and Société Générale to be the largest lenders to companies supporting the construction and maintenance of Israeli settlements illegally built on occupied Palestinian land. This is a key driver of conflict which demands urgent attention. 
These banks must stop fuelling Israel’s apartheid against Palestinians, and take appropriate action to address and prevent further human rights violations from taking place.
The DBIO reports have shown that financial institutions and business enterprises aren't able to meet their responsibilities under international law and human rights frameworks, including in occupied territory. In addition, the DBIO III report unveils how financial institutions are putting in place investment policies to align with human rights and international law, as well as policies that specifically include “involvement in the settlements in occupied territories” as an exclusion criterion. 
However, those remain insufficient and at times overlooked when conducting activities in practice.
*Human Rights Campaigner and Policy Researcher, BankTrack



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