In the coming months, shareholders of three U.S.-based companies will be asked to vote on the Holy Land Principles, a new set of principles focusing on corporate labor policies in Palestine/ Israel. As corporate complicity in human rights abuses in Palestine/ Israel becomes the focus of growing public concern, a new voluntary code for U.S. corporations doing business in that conflict zone is an important development.
The American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) has conducted a critical examination of the Holy Land Principles through a series of consultations with experts and stakeholders in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, in the U.S. and Europe; with AFSC staff engaged with Middle East issues at various levels in the organization, and through conversations with the proponents of this initiative.
Our examination shows that the Holy Land Principles fall short of the most basic and widely recognized standards of corporate respect for both human rights and labor rights. When corporate guidelines set a lower bar than existing non-voluntary and regulatory frameworks, they could be used to divert corporate accountability. We are concerned that the Principles in their present form are too limited in scope and too vague to support a change of corporate policies. Moreover, until they are amended to respond to the conditions in the occupied Palestinian territory, these Principles might stand in the way of other, more promising approaches. Based on these concerns, we recommend that shareholders abstain in the upcoming votes on the Holy Land Principles resolutions.
The following report describes our findings in detail, and outlines some suggested improvements. We hope that it will help create more conversation and more ideas to support corporate respect for human rights in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.