In the year since Resolution 31/3 was passed, mandating the compiling of a database of settlement businesses, two important developments have taken place that make the need to address the issue of business in or with settlements more urgent.
First, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 2334 calling Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories a “flagrant violation under international law” and determining that they “have no legal validity.” The resolution also calls on all states “to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the States of Israel and the territories occupied in 1967.”
Human Rights Watch’s research has demonstrated that companies doing business in or with settlements facilitate this illegal settlement activity and expansion, contributing as well to human rights violations including discrimination, land theft, restrictions on freedom of movement, and labor abuses. Human Rights Watch has also found that businesses cannot avoid contributing to such abuses of international human rights law so long as they engage in such activities.
Second, in recent months, the Israeli government has taken steps to expand the settlement enterprise and exacerbate the international human rights and humanitarian law abuses that settlements cause. Last month, the Israeli parliament passed the so-called “regularization bill,” explicitly authorizing the expropriation of private Palestinian land for use by Israeli settlers. In January, the Israeli government announced approval for the construction of an additional 2,500 housing units in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.
Holding private actors – such as businesses – accountable for their human rights responsibilities has the potential to mitigate abuses.
We therefore urge the Office of the High Commissioner to complete and report on the settlement business database as soon as possible. The OHCHR database will provide important guidance to business, government, and civil society actors to identify which businesses are operating in or with settlements and would be a useful tool in helping all states to fulfill their responsibilities, as outlined by the UN Security Council.