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Spain and Italy latest European countries to warn against business ties with settlements


By Eva Jael - June 30, 2014
TAGS:
Section: [Main News] [BDS]
Tags: [BDS] [European Union]

The governments of Spain and Italy officially warned their citizens on Friday against working with companies that operate inside, or profit from, Israeli settlements. The foreign ministries of the two countries said their citizens were at risk of legal and financial problems when dealing with settlement businesses. The warning follows a similar statement by France on Wednesday.

With Germany and the UK already having issued similar statements last December, the five biggest European countries now officially advise their citizens against dealing with settlements. The Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark have also adopted policies in the recent years to discourage working with settlements. 

This warning is not a sanction against Israel, the Spanish foreign ministry told Spanish the news agency EFE. The Spanish government has no objection against business with Israel, provided it takes place within it’s internationally recognized borders, the statement said. Because the settlements are built on land that Israel occupied in 1967, the European countries do not accept Israeli authority over these areas. The other countries that issued these warnings have made similar statements.

There will be no legal implications if companies decide to work with settlement businesses, but the statements do advice companies to seek legal advice before doing so. Because the settlements are deemed illegal under international law, working with businesses that operate inside, or profit from, them could pose a financial and legal risk. 

Israeli settlements are built on occupied land, and therefore other parties could consider investments or purchases made inside them invalid. Furthermore, doing business with Israeli settlements could lead to serious damage of reputation for the companies involved.

Lars Faaborg-Andersen, the EU ambassador to Israel, said that the warnings are in line with European policy. “The EU is more consistently implementing existing policy, and taking further steps to disengage from the settlements," he said, adding that the EU will also publish a warning to all European citizens.

Palestinian activists have welcomed the news. Zaid Shuabi, spokesperson for the Boycot National Committee, which leads the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement globally, told the Electronic Intifada: “European governments are continuing to react to Israel’s intransigence and the groundswell of public support for Palestinian rights by taking action against Israel’s settlement regime.”

However, Shuabi added, “the EU and all European states must do much more to end the involvement of European businesses in Israeli human rights abuses, including by explicitly prohibiting business relations with Israeli public and private entities in the occupied Palestinian territory, and by ensuring that companies involved in war crimes are brought to justice. ” 

The current warnings may have consequences for Israeli companies that are not based in settlements, but do work with or profit from them. In the past year, several European businesses have divested from, and stopped working with, companies profiting from Israel’s settlement politics. 

Danish Danske Bank and Swedish Nordea Bank blacklisted Israeli bank Hapoalim in February because of the latter’s involvement in financing the construction of Israeli settlements. PGGM, The Netherlands’ largest pension funds management company, divested from Israel’s five largest banks completely for the same reasons. 

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