19/11/2010

Israeli occupation and corporate responsibilities

If the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is undoubtedly a controversial subject, requiring many precautions in order not to be taxed of pro or anti, international law is often the ground on which everyone agrees at the end. Such a reflection led to the creation of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine in March 2009. The idea was to create a people’s tribunal intended to reaffirm the primacy of international law as the basis to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but also to identify shortcomings in the implementation of this right and to condemn all the perpetrators in the eyes of international public opinion.

After a first session in Barcelona on complicities and omissions of the EU and its member states vis-à-vis the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, the London session will address this weekend the international corporate complicity in Israel’s Violations of International Human Rights Law, International Humanitarian Law, and War Crimes. The subject is vast, but much vaguer than the one treated in Barcelona, since companies are not subject to international public law.

But the companies are sensitive about their image. The purpose of this session is then to highlight the activities of firms that allow the occupation to survive, and to establish in a second time the legal actions that can be carried out to stop it.

As part of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, several companies have already been put under the spotlight for their direct or indirect implications in Israeli occupation. In Belgium, action was taken against the bank Dexia, which specializes in financing communities, in order to push them to divest from illegal Israeli municipalities established in the Palestinian Territories. In France, Veolia was sued by associations for its involvement in the construction of a tramway connecting West Jerusalem to Israeli settlements surrounding East Jerusalem, which violates the provisions of the Geneva Conventions of 1949. And more recently, Caterpillar decided to postpone the delivery of D9 bulldozers to the Israeli army due to the Rachel Corrie trial. Rachel Corrie was an American activist who died in the Gaza Strip, crushed by one of those bulldozers.

These three companies have been forced to consider these claims and this mainly because the feared a bad publicity. The violation of international law is not yet commonplace and the international law remains a common reference for all people. By revealing the complicities and responsibilities of one another in Israel’s violations of that law, the Russell Tribunal remains at the stage of words. But it provides many ideas of action that any person, organization or country can then decide to implement.

Nathalie Janne d’Othée

To follow the London session LIVE ONLINE (in English):http://www.russelltribunalonpalestine.com/en/live