WORLD

Israeli banks aiding settlement expansion: Rights group

ISRAELI BANKS AIDING SETTLEMENT EXPANSION: RIGHTS GROUP

Israeli banks are contributing to the sustainability of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank -- deemed illegal under international law -- by providing them with services and financing, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Wednesday.

In a statement, the New York-based rights watchdog pointed out that there were no laws in Israel requiring banks to help finance, maintain or expand West Bank settlements.

"In doing so, these banks violate their international law responsibilities to avoid contributing to human rights and other abuses, including unlawful land seizures, discrimination against Palestinians, and the de facto annexation of the West Bank by Israel," the HRW statement read.

"Without these banking activities," it added, "settlement maintenance and expansion would be more difficult."

The rights group went on to note that Israel's five leading banks were all engaged in these practices.

Israel occupied the Palestinian West Bank, including East Jerusalem, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. It annexed the entire city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the Jewish state in a move never recognized by the international community.

International law views the West Bank and East Jerusalem as "occupied territories" and considers all Israeli settlement construction there as illegal.

Palestinians have long accused Israel of waging an aggressive campaign to "Judaize" Jerusalem with the aim of effacing its historical Arab and Islamic identity and driving out its Arab inhabitants.

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