UK tight-lipped over its watch list on Israeli settlements in Palestine

Marwan Sultan in London, Saturday 10 Jan 2015

The UK government has refused to reveal whether it is taking measures to turn its rejection of illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories into action.

Lord Michael Bates, the UK minister for Home Office, told the House of Lords that revealing such information would "harm the UK's national security".

According the British Middle East policy, the Israeli settlements are illegal, constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict impossible.

Pro-Palestinians in the UK call on their government to add anyone who might be involved in settlement-related activity on its watch list.

“It is long-standing policy not to discuss information held on watch lists as to do so would not be in the interests of border and national security," said Bates.

Bates was responding to a question over whether the Home Office will consider placing persons on its watch list if they are found undertaking, permitting or financing illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The Government takes a range of measures to prevent foreign nationals from coming to or remaining in the UK where their presence is not conducive to the public good, Bates said.

The Home Office has the power to exclude individuals whose presence in the UK is considered "not to be conducive to the public good". Such a decision is made according to the individual circumstances of each case.

In 2013, the UK government issued an “Advisory Business Risk Guidance” which warned of “the reputational, legal and economic risks” to companies that do business with Israel’s illegal Jewish settlements.

The Guidance, described by Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) as a step forward, also warned of “possible abuses of the rights of individuals” and advised those “contemplating any economic or financial involvement in settlements" to seek appropriate legal advice.

PSC has urged the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to follow the example set by their German and Dutch counterparts, who have actively discouraged two of their own companies from trading with settlements.

The German government opposed the involvement of the German rail company Deutsche Bahn in an Israeli train project that cuts through the occupied West Bank. After legal advice was given, the company ended its involvement in the project.

The Dutch government managed to discourage engineering firm Royal Haskoning from participating in a project in East Jerusalem.

In June 2014, the FCO said it doesn’t encourage or offer support to any British business activity in the Jewish settlements.

In its updated guidance, FCO reiterated there are clear risks related to economic and financial activities in the settlements.

"Financial transactions, investments, purchases, procurements as well as other economic activities including in services like tourism in settlements or benefiting settlements entail legal and economic risks stemming from the fact that the Israeli settlements, according to international law, are built on occupied land and are not recognised as a legitimate part of Israel’s territory," it added.

In December 2009, the UK government introduced voluntary guidelines to label products imported from illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied territories as such.

Short link: