How Businesses Profit from Israeli Settlements

In the Occupied Palestinian Territories, the growing Israeli settlement enterprise is not limited to residential dwellings, but also includes vast industrial and agricultural settlements. Israeli and international businesses play a large role in sustaining the settlement enterprise, both through building, financing, and servicing the settlements, and operating out of them. These businesses are therefore benefitting from settlement expansion and maintenance of the status quo. Business interests are the pillars that support the occupation.

Israel lures businesses to lands it occupied in 1967 with many benefits, including government subsidies, tax exemptions, and preferential access to infrastructure, permits, and export channels. Over the years, settlement businesses have mushroomed. Once small enterprises catering to local settlers, they now include large multinationals that export their products worldwide. In 2013, the Israeli Finance Ministry stated that Israel exported more than $600 million worth of industrial goods manufactured in Israeli settlements.  

Settlement businesses benefit substantially from the illegal settlement enterprise, and are complicit in the perpetuation of the occupation. Many of the business operate on private land that was illegally confiscated from Palestinian owners without compensation. Others consume vast quantities of limited natural resources like water.

Meanwhile, discriminatory Israeli restrictions on Palestinian access to resources such as farmland and water in the West Bank cost the Palestinian economy more than $700 million each year, according to the World Bank. This hinders Palestinian economic progress. In 2013, the World Bank estimated that the occupation cost the Palestinian economy about $3.4 billion per year.

Palestinians bear witness to the ongoing pillage of their resources and the violations of their most basic rights on a daily basis. These violations are difficult to monitor from the outside because they occur in isolated and often inaccessible locations. At Al-Haq, we have been striving to expose the link between these businesses and the violations of the Palestinians’ human rights. One method we use is organized field visits for local and international delegations, ranging from students to policy makers, to show them firsthand how these businesses violate Palestinian human rights. 

Often, these delegations are unable to participate in field visits due to restrictions on access imposed by Israel. To overcome this, we created the Virtual Human Rights and Business Tour. Combining Google Earth, interactive maps, and personal videos, these virtual tours recreate the experience of a field visit, providing everyone with the opportunity to see the on-the-ground reality of the occupation and hear from people directly affected by it.

Through these field visits, along with research and advocacy, Al-Haq strives to persuade the international community to hold Israel and its businesses accountable for violating international law.

Agriculture is the main source of income for Israeli settlements in the occupied Jordan Valley, with the estimated value of goods in the region of $128 million. To expose this industry, the Business and Human Rights Field Visit takes participants to the main Israeli produce companies in the West Bank. These companies grow, pack, and sell produce to European markets with “Made in Israel” labels.

Under international law, states have a responsibility not to condone or render support to Israel’s illegal practices in Palestine. By allowing the import of illegally produced Palestinians goods and produce into their markets, states are breaching their duties.

Along with many civil society organizations, Al-Haq has worked hard during the last decade to increase transparency about the origin of these goods and show consumers how their seemingly harmless purchases are perpetuating the occupation of Palestine. These efforts factored recently into the European Union’s decision to introduce new labeling guidelines for fresh fruit and vegetables, wine, honey, olive oil, eggs, poultry, organic products, and cosmetics originating from Israeli-owned businesses and farms outside the state’s recognized borders.

Under the guidelines, settlers have to label their goods as coming from an “Israeli settlement,” while Palestinian businesses must use the phrase “Product from Palestine” or “Palestinian product.” “Made in Israel” labels enter the EU with little or no tariff; products coming from the settlements should not benefit from this preferential treatment.

The EU is Israel’s top trading partner, with overall trade between the two amounting to around $30 billion annually. Israel’s economy ministry estimated that around $50 million in trade would be lost as a result of the EU’s recent decision. The new guidelines are making European companies rethink the consequences of doing business in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, but more efforts are still needed to dismantle the business pillars underpinning the occupation and violating the rights of Palestinians.     

Learn More:



I travelled with an International Federation of Journalists delegation to Palestine November 2015 for a series of meetings with Palestinian Journalists Syndicate and other parties. We also met Pres. Abbas. For a South African who experienced the brutality of Apartheid, the few days trip, experiences of scarred people and tales of dehumanization and deprivation under the iron grip of the occupation, brought back terrible memories of life under the brutal system of Apartheid and its homeland policies. Like Apartheid, the Occupation must end to free the besieged people of Palestine.

While I am not a fan of "Imperial Israel", the PLO and Hamas are not in the business of helping the Palestinians, either.

I support Al-Haq

My blood boils over almost every time I encounter scenes from the occupied territories. But, I pray that the non-violent BDS approach will work so we never have to ignite another war. Few will walk away from the final inferno if it comes. God help us!

See previous note

Thanks for the video. I am reminded of the US treatment of Native Americans. It was said "a good Indian is a Dead Indian." They were demonized , their land was taken from them , and they were herded into reservations where they were at times left to starve. Will we never learn?

You are doing a great job.Hope that BDS would be more spread out

To me if you talk about this nation, meant to debate on god's covenant against his of Israel. So no comment

This is more anti-Israel slander. These businesses employee mostly Palestinians and are there only ways of employment. They benefit the Palestinian communities.
These lands are historically Jewish. Why was there no concern for an independent Palestinian state when the land was British or Ottoman OCCUPIED?

Congratulations for the informative website. Im an economist living in London. How can I volunteer to help your actions.
Nelio Oliveira

Technically, it is not discriminatory since rather than being based on racism it is based on putting Israeli interests before Palestinian ones, and buying settler products is not necessarily supporting or condoning Israeli practices, but that being said, the situation in the West Bank is intolerable.

Very Informative website. How could I support you as an economist who had volunteered twice in Palestine.
Nelio Oliveira

I wonder what would happen if these businesses packed up and went. It normally is very easy for the lobbyists to pontificate, After all for the majority their bread is paid for. It would be interesting to hear the view of the ordinary Palestinian who has to struggle daily to put food on the table for his family

Congratulations to your informative website. As a stamp collector, am now familiar with Palestine through philately from friends. Thanks and mire power ! Godbless !

My kudos also to the author of the now issue, to Shawan Jabarin. Congratulations and my sincere thanks for the nice story.Godbless !

Thank you very much, I getting off the train in this stop
I know the facts. your facts are wrong.
If the facts as expressed in this article are indication to the organization, Gook luck!

Name & shame the companies. Also name & shame their major shareholders & executives.
[email protected]

Sometimes I wonder, why is it so easy for those in power to misuse their power and dehumanize others. What happened to humanity and care! Palestinian goods must belong to the Palestinians, this is a right. EU must stop encouraging this violation.

One need to first visit these areas so as to know what exactly is taking place between Palestine & Israel for true judgement. Otherwise everyone accuses the other. I was in Israel last year but a lot has to be done to bring these two nations together.

Add your voice