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Boycott urged on firms that assist Israel’s occupation

November 2012

A UN human rights expert has called for a boycott of multinational companies that are investing to further Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory.

Addressing the UN General Assembly, special rapporteur Richard Falk listed various companies involved in the establishment and maintenance of settlements on Palestinian land that the UN, US and EU consider illegal.

In a statement released after presenting his report last month, Falk said the companies should be boycotted “until they bring their operations into line with international human rights and humanitarian law and standards”.

But his comments drew criticism from US diplomats and pro-Israel groups for distorting the facts on the ground and for promoting anti-semitism.

Falk, professor emeritus of international law at Princeton University, said the companies’ involvement must be challenged because “all Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, have been established in clear violation of international law”. The settlements, he added, now make up more than 40% of the West Bank.

He singled out numerous companies – including Caterpillar, Hewlett Packard, Motorola and G4S – and said they could face criminal or civil liability for their actions in the West Bank. He went on to suggest the International Court of Justice at the Hague be asked to issue an advisory opinion on the matter.

But his comments were denounced by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), which seeks to stop the defamation of the Jewish people. ADL director Abraham Foxman said: “While the issue of human rights violations experienced by Palestinians is a legitimate area of concern, Richard Falk has repeatedly abused his position as special rapporteur to unleash unrestrained hatred and disdain for Israel.

“This malevolence permeates his official reports and, at times, his personal statements, which include the use of anti-semitic imagery and comparisons of Israeli actions to those of the Nazis.”

Meanwhile, British Labour MP Lisa Nandy, who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on International Corporate Responsibility, has attacked G4S for helping Israel to ‘break’ the Geneva Convention by providing equipment and services to Israeli prisons, some of which house Palestinian prisoners transferred from the West Bank.

Writing in the New Statesman, she said Israeli Prison Service figures released in June showed that 85% of Palestinian prisoners, including children, were detained inside Israel in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits their transfer there. Of 4,706 prisoners, 285 were held in administrative detention, without charge or trial.

The lack of adequate family contact for children, she added, also violates article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In addition, G4S has installed a central command room in Ofer Prison on the West Bank, which houses a centre where prisoners are tried under military law.

In reply, G4S says it will exit from all the contracts it holds in the West Bank at the earliest opportunity, while stressing that it has not violated any international laws.




United Nations | Asia | Human rights

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