Legal action opens new front for anti-Israel lobbyistsSeptember 2008
Further signs have emerged in recent weeks that companies operating in or sourcing from the occupied West Bank of Palestine are coming under increasing pressure from pro-Palestinian campaigners to cut their links with Israel.
Residents of a village in Palestine have begun a lawsuit against two Montreal-based building companies active in a Jewish settlement in the occupied West Bank, while some UK supermarkets are being targeted for sourcing food from the area.
The lawsuit, brought against two unlisted sister companies, Green Park International and Green Mount International, claims damages of about £1million ($1.86m) for alleged breaches of the fourth Geneva convention and Canada’s Crimes against Humanity and War Crimes Act. The Jewish settlements have been declared illegal by the United Nations Security Council, which calls them ‘an obstacle to peace’.
The plaintiffs allege that the companies are ‘aiding, abetting, assisting and conspiring with the state of Israel in carrying out an illegal purpose’, leading to a ‘fundamental violation’ of the villagers’ human rights in the Modi’in Illit settlement on land that once belonged to the Palestinian village of Bil’in. The companies are expected to fight the case if the Quebec Superior Court decides it can be heard.
Meanwhile, J. Sainsbury, Somerfield, Tesco and Waitrose are facing boycott calls from Western and Jewish campaign groups opposed to the West Bank occupation. The supermarket companies have declared that they source food grown on illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied territories. None have indicated that they will change their policy.
Tesco maintains that such sourcing provides employment for local people. It said: ‘The farms in the occupied territories will be a mixture of Israeli- and Palestinian-owned. We don’t particularly look at the nationality of the farm owner, only the ethical standards under which it operates.’
Caterpillar and Volvo, which supply the Israeli military with bulldozers used to demolish Palestinian homes, have until now been the main target of pressure groups, among them the United Methodist Church in the US and War on Want. However, neither company has yet bowed to the campaigners’ demands.
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