Responsibility of Businesses Involved in the Israeli Settlements in the West Bank
38 Pages Posted: 17 Apr 2015 Last revised: 28 Apr 2015
Date Written: April 15, 2015
This article examines legal and other standards of behaviour applicable to businesses with respect to the Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The settlements enterprise is particularly convenient as an analytical framework since it involves a violation by the state of an absolute prohibition, Art 49(6) of the 1949 Geneva Convention, which prohibits the transfer of the occupying power’s civilian population, or part thereof, to the occupied territory. It reviews the legal bodies which govern the settlements enterprise, and their applicability to businesses. Concluding that businesses are not bound by international law directly, it proceeds to examine the responsibility of businesses under the emerging standards of human rights as a matter of doctrine, and applies these standards to business activity related to the settlements, distinguishing among different types of activity. The practical implications of these findings appear to be that any business operating in the settlements can be viewed as beneficially complicit in the violations of human rights, since the settlements enterprise is inextricably dependent on violations of rights. Some businesses are directly implicated in human rights abuses, where they participate in the enforcement of restrictions on human rights. But beyond the individual complicity, the business community as a whole has a role in perpetuating the settlements enterprise, and, consequently, the violations of human rights. What is less clear is whether such involvement falls within the ambit of the UN Protect, Respect and Remedy framework, which is concerned with individual entities’ responsibility rather than with entire industries. Moreover, the violations of human rights that the settlements enterprise engenders are inherent to the political project which the state pursues, and thus what is truly at issue is that project. However, engagement with the political underpinning of the violations is beyond the capacity of businesses and thus should remain outside their responsibility.
Keywords: BDS, businesses and human rights, Israel, Ruggie Principles, settlements, UN Respect, Protect and Remedy Framework, war crimes, West Bank
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