Executive Summary (from the report)
Unilever, the Dutch-English multinational company, began investing in an Israeli settlement in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) in 2001, when it acquired 51% shared of the Israeli Beigel and Beigel company. The Beigel and Beigel factory produces savoury products and is located at the Barkan industrial zone in the area of the settlement Ariel. The Israeli settlements in the OPT are illegal under International Law. The land of the Barkan industrial zone was confiscated from surrounding Palestinian villages by a 1981 military order issued by the Israeli Defence Force, and declared “state land.” International Law prohibits the confiscation of occupied land not for military purposes. Palestinian landowners in the area claim that the land where
Unilever’s factory was built belongs to them.
Unilever Israel denies wrongdoing and responsibility for contributing to the economy of an illegal settlement,and for complicity with a range of human rights and labour rights violations associated with the Israeli settlement policy. These violations and Unilever’s complicity and liability are the focus of this report. UCP findings point at the fact that Unilever pays taxes to Israeli settlers through its annual contributions to the Shomron Regional Council, pays monthly rent to Israeli companies profiting from illegally confiscated land, and benefits from generous subsidies given by the Israeli government to the settlement’s industrial zone and guaranteed to Unilever directly as incentives to remain and expand its operation in Barkan.
Unilever Israel, contrary to Unilever’s excellent reputation as an employer and to its employment and recruitment standards, does not consider itself responsible, beyond the factory gate, for the situation of the Palestinians it employs at Beigel and Beigel. This report includes a testimony by a Unilever employee, who is sometimes unable to return to his home because the checkpoint he must pass through closes before his shift at the Beigel and Beigel factory ends, and he is forced to sleep outdoors in the vicinity of the checkpoint. This and other serious human rights violations are systemic and inherent to a system of military rule governing economic relations in the OPT. The Israeli settlement economy, which Unilever is part of, is perpetuating conditions of extreme exploitation and inequality. It is founded on a dual legal regime: one for full citizens, enjoying the protection of the laws of the state, and the other for occupied subjects, who are denied the protection of fundamental rights. The settlement economy deprives the occupied population of land and water resources, which are vital for the development of an independent and sustainable economy.
UCP urges Unilever to consider its commitment to both International Law, and its own Code of Business Principles in making an ethical decision to relocate or to divest from the illegal settlement. By taking this step, Unilever will join a number of international companies who have recently pulled out of Israeli settlements on ethical grounds. UCP will continue to hold companies accountable for their complicity with violations of International Law and human rights associated with the Israeli occupation and the settlement policy.
A study of Unilever’s investment in an illegal Israeli settlement