Don’t Buy Into Occupation : French financial institutions linked to Israeli colonisation in Palestine

JAAFAR ASHTIYEH / AFP

5 December 2022. More than 700 financial institutions have economic ties with companies active in the illegal settlement of the Palestinian territories - among them are major French banks. This is what the new report published by the NGO coalition Don’t Buy Into Occupation (DBIO) reveals. The financial flows that directly support grave human rights violations in Palestine are exposed bare in this new text.

The new report by the Don’t Buy Into Occupation (DBIO) coalition, comprising 24 organisations including the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and the Association France Palestine Solidarité (AFPS), reveals the support of hundreds of financial institutions to companies linked to the colonisation of Palestinian territories. These activities involve the illicit construction of settlements, services to settlers and the surveillance of Palestinian populations in Occupied Territory. This involves nearly US$300 billion in loans, underwriting and holding of stocks and bonds.

"As these companies play a key role in maintaining and expanding the settlements, financial institutions cannot do business with them without risking active participation in this serious violation of international law."

Mado Hervy from AFPS

Financial institutions, including major French players such as BNP Paribas, Société Générale, Crédit Agricole and the BCPE Group - which have decided to support settlement-related businesses to the tune of 150 million US$ - have an obligation to ensure that their activities do not contribute to the perpetuation of settlements and their illegal expansion.

These principles are clearly established by the positions of the United Nations (UN) Security Council, the UN General Assembly [1], as well as the United Nations Guidelines on Business and Human Rights and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises. [OECD, The OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, Chapter IV, 2011; UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, 13a, 13b, 14, 2011]]

A worrying position of the Council of the European Union on due diligence

The report comes at a key moment, in the midst of the European Union’s discussion on corporate accountability and financial institutions due to a proposed legislation on due diligence. On Thursday 1 December 2022, the Council of the European Union approved a text that largely weakened the legislative proposal, at the instigation of France notably.

"In light of the DBIO report, it is particularly worrying that France has gone against the grain in European negotiations to exempt financial institutions from the duty of vigilance . This can only contribute to the feeling of impunity of the financial sector. However, this feeling is erroneous, because exempting oneself from the future directive will in no way exclude possible liability, both civil and criminal, following financial support that has participated in or facilitated serious human rights violations."

Alexis Deswaef, vice-president of FIDH

DBIO calls on the French players to align themselves with international standards and to stop discouraging both the efforts already made and the positions taken by various players in the sector, which have recently called for the financial sector to be subject to European duty of care legislation. Other financial institutions in Norway and the Netherlands have taken steps to exclude such companies from their portfolios. The coalition expects an unequivocal position from the institutions mentioned in the report on these issues.

The FIDH and the AFPS have sent a letter to BNP Paribas, Société Générale, Crédit Agricole and the BCPE Group, asking them to justify the due diligence measures they have taken, to attest to the use of their levers to ensure that the companies financed cease their illegal activities, and to provide information on the conditions for a possible responsible withdrawal in the event that it proves impossible and not credible to achieve this result. DBIO coalition members expect a response by 19 December 2022.

FIDH is also a partner of the European Citizens’ Initiative #StopColonies, to ask the European Union to end trade with settlements illegally established in the occupied territories. Sign on stopcolonies.fr

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