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UK construction equipment maker denies link to alleged Israeli abuses

Amnesty International report claimed British firm’s machinery was used to demolish Palestinian homes, build settlements

A JCB excavator operated by Israeli authorities demolishes homes belonging to Palestinians, in the village of al-Mufagra near the West Bank city of Yatta, on September 11, 2019. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)
A JCB excavator operated by Israeli authorities demolishes homes belonging to Palestinians, in the village of al-Mufagra near the West Bank city of Yatta, on September 11, 2019. (Wisam Hashlamoun/Flash90)

A British heavy machinery company has denied allegations by an international rights group that it is complicit in alleged Israeli abuses in the West Bank.

Amnesty International said J.C. Bamford Excavators Limited’s diggers and excavators have been used to demolish Palestinian homes and in the construction of Jewish settlements, both of which are widely seen as violations of international law.

JCB is among more than 100 businesses listed in a United Nations database of companies that operate in West Bank settlements.

In a statement issued late Thursday, JCB said it “does not contribute to, or is in any way responsible for, or otherwise linked to adverse human rights abuses in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, either directly or indirectly.”

It said an independent investigation by the United Kingdom National Contact Point for the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises had recently absolved the company of any wrongdoing.

That investigation found that JCB had not breached guidelines aimed at preventing or mitigating human rights violations. But it faulted the company for not carrying out human rights due diligence in its supply chain.

A JCB excavator operated by Israeli authorities uproots olive trees to make way for Israel’s separation barrier, in the West Bank town of Beit Jala, on August 17, 2015. (Flash90)

Amnesty said in a report Thursday that JCB’s equipment is sold to an Israeli intermediary, who then sells it onward to clients that include the Defense Ministry. Amnesty said the use of a middleman does not absolve JCB of ensuring its equipment is not used to violate human rights.

“JCB’s failure to conduct proper human rights due diligence on the end use of its products represents a failure to respect human rights,” the group said in its report.

Home demolitions are a controversial measure that the Israeli security establishment maintains can deter future terror attacks. Critics say that the tool is a war crime and form of collective punishment.

Israel also sometimes demolishes structures it says have been built without the required construction permits. Palestinians and rights groups say such authorization is routinely denied, forcing unlicensed building.

Israel captured East Jerusalem and the West Bank in the 1967 Six Day War, and the Palestinians want both areas to be part of their future state. The Palestinians and most of the international community view Israeli settlements as a violation of international law and an obstacle to peace.

Israel annexed East Jerusalem and considers the entire city its capital. It views the West Bank as disputed territory whose fate should be settled in negotiations, which were last held in 2014.

The current prime minister, Naftali Bennett, is opposed to Palestinian statehood, and said there is no current possibility of restarting peace talks. He has also said Israel will not annex any territories while he’s premier and called for maintaining ties and connections with Palestinian officials in order to maintain calm and security coordination.

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