Withholding trade with Israeli settlements is an obligation under international law

The question about third party permissibility and obligations with respect to trade with Israeli settlements in occupied territories is of great relevance to international efforts to settle the Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Syrian conflict peacefully. Mirroring the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign that assisted in the downfall of apartheid in South Africa, international civil society is increasingly pushing for a similar approach to Israeli settlement activity. In response, more policy makers have seriously assessed the possibility and legality of trade bans.

Article by Tom Moerenhout argues that trade embargoes toward illegal Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories are an obligation under general public international law, when such trade primarily benefits the occupant. In this case, the self-executing duty of non-recognition applies. There is no need for an explicit trade embargo imposed by the United Nations Security Council. For, transferring parts of an occupant’s civilian population to occupied territories, and gaining economic benefits from occupation, both violate peremptory norms of public international law. Equally, withholding trade is also permitted under the law of the World Trade Organization (WTO). Article by Tom Moerenhout shows that according to Article XXVI.5.(a) of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the GATT does not apply to illegal settlements.

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The article was published in Journal of International Humanitarian Legal Studies