PARIS: Four major French banks and one big insurer are financing Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories through links to local banks and businesses, a report by the International Federation for Human Rights said on Wednesday.
BNP Paribas, Credit Agricole, Societe Generale, BPCE and AXA hold shares or are otherwise involved with Israeli banks which are an “essential political tool in the creation of the settlements (and) finance construction,” according to the study.
Its authors called Israeli settlement building in east Jerusalem illegal, and it is seen by many as a major obstacle to peace as they are built on land the Palestinians see as part of their future state.
Much of the international community has raised increasing alarm over settlement expansion, saying it is eating away at prospects for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The five French groups are also involved with businesses which aid the development of the settlements through the building of “housing, factories, the installation of telephone and internet connections, or surveillance equipment,” according to the study “Dangerous Liaisons: French banks and Israeli Settlements”.
Maryse Artiguelong, vice-president of the International Federation for Human Rights, said she was “sad” to see the banks and insurer “would get involved in this illegal activity just to make a bit more money”.
“(They) are seeking profit at any cost,” she said.
“We want French groups to withdraw their money from Israeli businesses with a connection to the settlements” as recommended by the ministry of foreign affairs in 2014, said Didier Fagart, member of the France Palestine Solidarity Association that co-authored the report along with the French Human Rights League and the CGT trade union.
“French banks cannot say they don’t know what is going on,” he added. “They must make the right decisions.”
However AXA said its responsible investment committee studied the issue last year and found no problem with the investments, which “represent an infinitesimal part of our assets under management”.
BNP Paribas, Societe Generale and BPCE declined to comment on the report when contacted by AFP. Credit Agricole was not immediately available to comment.