Israeli banks involved in financing illegal settlements in Palestine, Who Profits' report

Israeli banks provide financial services for construction and infrastructure projects in West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements and provide loans to regional and local councils of settlements in the West Bank. Reports by WhoProfits have focused on the responsibility of these banks for the continued occupation of Palestinian land. The reports revealed that all Israeli banks except Dexia Israel provide special loans to construction and infrastructure projects in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. In addition, all Israeli banks with no exception provide loans and financial services to local and regional councils of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and most banks have several branches in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. A later report by Human Rights Watch has also focused on the responsibility of Israeli banks and has purportedly disproved the claim that the banks are required by Israeli law to provide financial services to settlements. Further allegations by BDS France have highlighted the role of AXA Insurance in financing some of these banks.

The Resource Centre contacted a number of Israeli banks mentioned in the reports. Bank Hapoalim, Leumi Bank, Bank of Jerusalem, Dexia, FIBI, Israel Discount Bank, Mizrahi Tefahot and Union Bank of Israel (Igud) have not responded.

AXA responded to allegations raised by BDS France.

The Association of Banks in Israel had responded in 2014 to an earlier outreach by the Resource Centre to Israeli Banks following a report by WhoProfits in 2013.

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Article
18 March 2018

Dexia Group Sells Its Shares in Dexia Israel

Author: Who Profits

On 18 March 2018, Dexia announced the sale of its 58.9% stake in Dexia Israel Bank. According to Dexia, the sale completes the mandatory divestment process of the Group’s commercial franchises, as part of the recovery plan undertaken by the Group following a financial crisis in 2011... In 2001, Dexia bought the Israeli Municipality Treasure Bank and established  Dexia Israel... Since 2005, Dexia has been giving long-term loans and other financial services to more than ten different Israeli municipalities in the occupied West Bank, including: Ariel, Elkana, Alfei Menashe, Har Hebron (South Hebron Hills), Kdumim and Giv'at Zeev. Following public campaigns led by the Belgian Intal group... the bank announced... in June 2009 that financing Israeli settlements is contrary to the bank’s code of ethics, and that since September of 2008 it has not provided new loans to settlements in the occupied West Bank. However, contrary to this announcement, it has continued providing loans to local and regional councils of settlements after September 2008...

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Article
13 October 2017

Danish pension fund divests from four companies over complicity in the Israeli occupation

Author: Sarah Scheer Pedersen, Danwatch (Denmark)

“Pension Fund blacklists four companies after Danwatch investigation”, 10 October 2017

The third largest pension fund in Denmark, Sampension, excludes four publicly traded companies from their portfolio. The blacklisting happens after [Danish research centre] Danwatch…documented that Sampension…invested the largest sum of money in companies doing business in or around the illegal Israeli settlements. The Danwatch-investigation has lead the pension fund to revise its investment guidelines…“The result of our review is that two Israeli banks, Hapoalim and Leumi, as well as Heidelberg Cement and Bezeq, [have] been placed on our list of excluded companies due to the financing of settlements, and the extraction of natural resources and establishment of infrastructure for telecommunication on occupied territory”, the [pension fund stated in a] press release…Sampension…[is] also initiating a dialogue with an additional six companies about their possible business activities in the settlements…

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Article
12 September 2017

Israeli Law and Banking in West Bank Settlements

Author: Human Rights Watch

The activities of Israeli banks in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank raise serious human rights concerns. By providing services to and in settlements, which are illegal under international humanitarian law…Israeli banks are making existing settlements more sustainable, enabling the expansion of their built-up area and the take-over of Palestinian land, and furthering the de facto annexation of the territory…When faced with such concerns over their banking activities in and with Israeli settlements in the West Bank, Israeli banks have said that they are required by Israeli law to provide those services. However, Human Rights Watch can find no Israeli domestic law that requires Israeli banks to provide many such settlement-related activities. In other words, Israeli banks could stop many of their settlement-related activities – notably financing new construction, providing mortgages, and operating service points -- branches and ATMs – without necessarily incurring adverse domestic legal consequences…Human Rights Watch does not believe it is possible for businesses to operate in the settlements in compliance with their international responsibilities, due to the inherent IHL and human rights violations that characterize settlements. Human Rights Watch is calling for banks, like other businesses, to comply with their own human rights responsibilities by ceasing settlement-related activities...

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Company response
10 September 2017

AXA responds to allegations re ties to Israeli settlement construction and weapons manufacturing

Author: AXA Group

...[W]e have duly taken note of your concern with regards to our investments in three Israeli banks. We were contacted in the past by some NGOs on the same topic, and had therefore reviewed it carefully, as we do when we receive questions about our investments. We would like to reassure you that AXA is not present and does not do business in the settlements, which are subject to an international United Nations resolution. The banks you are mentioning, which are under no legal restriction, were carefully examined by the teams involved in the decisions relative to our responsible investment policy. They concluded that these companies did not fall within the exclusion framework of our responsible investment policy, one of the most advanced and transparent in the financial sector. We hope to have reassured you on our investment policy.

Yours Faithfully,

AXA Group

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Article
22 August 2017

French civil society organizations question AXA’s commitment to the UN Global Compact amid allegations of complicity in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land

Author: BDS France

“AXA must comply with international law and break with Israel’s colonial, apartheid policy”, 28 July 2017

70 French organizations, associations, parties and unions have published a call to AXA to respect international law and cut ties with Israel’s colonial and apartheid policy. AXA is a shareholder of three Israeli banks: Hapoalim, Leumi and Mizrahi Tefahot. A report by the Israeli research group “Who Profits” found that all Israeli banks are implicated in the financial infrastructure that allows companies, government agencies and individuals to participate in the colonization of Palestine and perpetuation of the occupation. Through its subsidiary, AB, AXA maintains investments in Elbit Systems, a major Israeli weapons manufacturer accused of providing the illegal white phosphorus containing shells used by the Israeli army against civilians in Gaza. In an appeal published on 28 july 2017, the above mentioned groups called on AXA to put an end to its controversial partnerships and cease profiting from the occupation and colonization of the Palestinian people.

The signatories of this communiqué point out that international citizen engagement has forced companies such as Veolia and Orange to halt their involvement in Israeli colonization and that pension funds such as PGGM in the Netherlands, FDC in Luxemburg and Danske Bank in Denmark have all divested from Israeli banks due to their involvement with Israeli settlements…

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Company non-response
14 August 2017

Bank Hapoalim has not responded re allegations of financing Israeli settlements

The Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Bank Hapoalim to respond to Who Profits' "Financing Land Grab" report, but has not received a response.

Company non-response
14 August 2017

Bank of Jerusalem has not responded re allegations of financing Israeli settlements

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Bank of Jerusalem to respond to Who Profits' "Financing Land Grab" report, but has not received a response.

Company non-response
14 August 2017

Dexia has not responded re allegations of financing Israeli settlements

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Dexia to respond to Who Profits' "Financing Land Grab" report, but has not received a response.

Company non-response
14 August 2017

First International Bank of Israel (FIBI) has not responded re allegations of financing Israeli settlements

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited FIBI to respond to Who Profits' "Financing Land Grab" report, but has not received a response.

Company non-response
14 August 2017

Israel Discount Bank has not responded re allegations of financing Israeli settlements

Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Israel Discount Bank to respond to Who Profits' "Financing Land Grab" report, but has not received a response.