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Israel slams report claiming settlement business violates Palestinians' rights

JERUSALEM, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) -- Israel on Tuesday slammed a report by an international watchdog, which accused companies operating in or dealing with the West Bank settlements of facilitating the violation of Palestinians' rights in the occupied territories.

Israel's Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday, several hours after the Human Rights Watch organization issued the 162-page report, that the report is one-sided and biased against Israel.

"Israel is concerned with the one-sided, politicized report that jeopardizes the livelihoods of thousands of Palestinians and negates co-existence and cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians," the ministry said in a statement to the press.

It also added that Israel is taking "practical steps to bolster the Palestinian economy," along with the international community.

In the report, entitled "How settlement business contributes to Israel's violations of Palestinian rights," the group charges that businesses should stop operating, financing or trading with Israeli settlements in order to comply with the international treaties' commitments to ensure human rights.

The authors contend that business activity in or with the settlements contributes to the settlements' operation, which is based on the "unlawful confiscation of Palestinian land and other resources," and add that there are discriminatory practices in place against Palestinians in the occupied territories.

"Settlement businesses unavoidably contribute to Israeli policies that dispossess and harshly discriminate against Palestinians, while profiting from Israel's theft of Palestinian land and other resources," Arvind Ganesan, director of business and human rights division in the organization, said in a statement accompanying the report.

"The only way for businesses to comply with their human rights responsibilities is to stop working with and in Israeli settlements," he said.

Israel occupied the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza Strip territories in the 1967 Mideast War. The international community deems the Jewish settlements established in these territories, where Palestinians wish to establish their own state in the future, as illegal.

On a related note on Monday, the United States' ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, criticized Israel's settlement policies and its ramifications on a possibility to achieve peace in the future with the Palestinians, in accordance with the two-state solution.

Shapiro said Washington is "concerned and perplexed" over the Israeli government's support for the expansion of Jewish settlements, which "raises questions about Israel's intentions."

He also accused Israel of operating by a double standard in regards to Jews and Palestinians in the West Bank territories, turning a blind eye to settlers' violence against the Palestinians and failing to investigate thoroughly such crimes.

"At times it seems that Israel has two standards of adherence to the rule of law in the West Bank, one for Jews and one for Palestinians," Shapiro said at a Tel Aviv security-related conference on Monday.

Also on Monday, the European Union announced that all agreements signed between the body and the Israeli government do not apply to territories Israel occupied in 1967.

"Settlements are illegal under international law and constitute an obstacle to peace and threaten to make a two-state solution impossible," the European Union's Foreign Ministers' forum wrote in its decision on Monday.

The European Union had recently signed off on a decision to label products manufactured in the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, a move which angered politicians in Israel's nationalist right-wing government.

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