In the Palestinian village of Azzun, for example, Murshed Suleiman’s family lost regular access to their land when Israel erected its separation barrier between Azzun and the nearby settlement of Alfei Menashe, on the Israeli side. Bank Leumi, Israel’s second largest bank, is partnering with an Israeli construction company to build five new buildings in this settlement, on land that belongs to Azzun.
Just outside the Palestinian village of Mas-ha, Mizrahi Tefahot, Israel’s fourth largest bank, is accompanying two new housing projects, with a total of 251 housing units. The project essentially expands the settlement of Elkana toward Mas-ha, exacerbating restrictions on land access. The Aamer family has largely lost access to what had been about 500 dunams (50 hectares) of their land. Family members say that part of the new construction is on land that their father bought but has been seized without their permission and is now off-limits to them.
In Mas-ha, too, the Israeli authorities built the separation barrier to veer deep into the West Bank, to situate Elkana and other settlements on the “Israeli” side.
Human Rights Watch contacted both banks for their response but received no substantive replies.
Human Rights Watch believes that to comply with their human rights responsibilities, banks, like other businesses, should cease doing businesses in or with Israeli settlements. They should stop locating or carrying out activities inside settlements, financing, administering or otherwise supporting settlements or settlement-related activities and infrastructure, and contracting to purchase settlement-produced goods.
“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.”