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Israeli banks profit from illegal settlements

NEW YORK: Most of Israel’s largest banks are helping build illegal settlements in the Palestinian West Bank by providing financial services to home buyers and local councils, Human Rights Watch, a prominent international watchdog body, said in a new report.

The report said that bank activities in or with settlements have helped encourage settlement growth and “contribute to rights abuses” against Palestinians.”Israeli banks are partnering with developers to build homes reserved exclusively for Israelis on Palestinian land,” Sari Bashi, Israel and Palestine advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

“The projects these banks underwrite contribute to displacing Palestinians unlawfully,”HRW said Israeli banks, and international banks doing business with them, maybe engaging in pillage, by acquiring ownership interests in housing projects on seized land.

Because of an Israeli law limiting the amount of money developers can collect from buyers in advance, banks often become direct partners in settlement projects, the report held.”Most Israeli banks finance or ‘accompany’ construction projects in the settlements by becoming partners in settlement expansion, supervising each stage of construction, holding the buyers’ money in escrow, and taking ownership of the project in case of default by the construction company,” the report said.

Israel captured the Gaza Strip, West Bank and east Jerusalem in the 1967 war. West Bank settlements are now home to around 400,000 Israeli settlers. An additional 200,000 Israelis live in east Jerusalem, which Israel annexed in a move that is not recognized internationally.

It withdrew from Gaza in 2005 although still enforces a border blockade. “Banks cannot do business in settlements without contributing to discrimination, displacement, and land theft,” Bashi said. “To avoid this outcome, they should end their settlement activities.”

M M Alam

M. M. Alam is a Pakistan-based working journalist since 1981. Karachi University faculty gold medalist Alam began his career four decades ago by writing for Dawn, Pakistan’s highest circulating English daily. He has worked for region’s leading publications, global aviation periodicals including Rotors (of USA) and vetted New York Times as permanent employee of daily Express Tribune. Alam regularly covers international aviation and defense-related events including Salon Du Bourget (France), Farnborough (United Kingdom), Dubai (UAE). Alam has reported thousands of events and interviewed hundreds of people in Pakistan, UAE, EU, UK and USA. Being Francophone Alam also coordinates with a number of French publications.