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Nearly 700 European financial firms backing businesses involved in Israeli settlements

Deutsche Bank and HSBC among the largest backers of 50 businesses involved in settlements highlighted in report
Israeli settlements on land taken by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war are illegal under international law (AFP)

Nearly 700 European financial institutions have financial relationships with 50 businesses that are actively involved with illegal Israeli settlements, according to a report published by a cross-regional coalition of Palestinian and European NGOs.

The institutions were found to have billions of dollars worth of relationships with businesses such as Airbnb, TripAdvisor and General Mills, which were among companies concluded by the UN last year to have ties to illegal Israeli settlements.

France's BNP Paribas, Germany's Deutsche Bank and the UK's HSBC were among the institutions said to have provided $114bn in the form of loans and underwritings, and held investments to the amount of $141bn in shares and bonds of such businesses. 

Named: 112 companies linked to illegal Israeli settlements by the UN
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The report was published by the Don’t Buy into Occupation (DBIO) coalition, a joint project between 25 Palestinian, regional and European organisations based in Belgium, France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and the UK.

The DBIO coalition found that between January 2018, and May 2021, 672 European financial institutions, including banks, asset managers, insurance companies, and pension funds, had financial relationships with the 50 businesses it identified as involved with settlements.

Israeli settlements on land taken by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war are illegal under international law and constitute acts which incur individual criminal liability as war crimes and crimes against humanity under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

'Economic oxygen'

In the foreword to the report, Michael Lynk, the UN special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967, said that “the involvement of these corporations with the settlements - through investments, banking loans, resource extraction, infrastructure contracts and equipment and product supply agreements - provides them with the indispensable economic oxygen they require to grow and thrive".

Along with BNP Parabas ($17.30bn), Deutsche Bank ($12.03bn) and HSBC ($8.72bn) in the top ten creditors to the 50 businesses were, the UK's Barclays ($8.69bn), France's Societe Generale ($8.20bn) and Credit Agricole ($5.55bn), Spain's Santander ($4.75bn), the Netherland's ING Group ($4.60bn), Germany's Commerzbank ($4.37bn) and Italy's Unicredit ($3.58bn).

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Recently, several financial institutions and companies have divested from business enterprises linked to Israeli settlements. 

In July, Kommunal Landspensjonskasse (KLP), Norway’s largest pensions company, divested from 16 such companies, while earlier this month the Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) said it would exclude three such companies from its investments.

Willem Staes, coordinator of the DBIO coalition, said that "despite the illegal nature of Israeli settlements under international law, European financial institutions continue to throw a financial lifeline to companies operating in the settlements. 

"European financial institutions should take up their responsibility and follow the example of KLP and GPFG. 

"They should end all investments and financial flows into Israeli settlements, and not buy into the Israeli occupation."

This article is available in French on Middle East Eye French edition.