While claiming to scrutinize corporations involved “in the ongoing Israeli occupation of Palestinian and Syrian lands,” — seemingly referring to the West Bank and Golan — the NGO known as “Who Profits” is increasingly targeting business activity taking place within the 1949 Armistice lines. This suggests that Who Profits, like many other NGOs, considers all of Israel as Palestinian – or Syrian – land, and the NGO advances  a false narrative of “apartheid,”  treating Israel as inherently illegitimate.

Who Profits maintains an interactive map and accompanying report titled “Tools of Dispossession in the Naqab: Development and Military Projects” – launched in December 2021 – to illustrate “how Israel’s long-standing policies to Judaize and industrialize serve to dispossess the Naqab’s Palestinian Bedouin inhabitants.” The interactive map highlights “several ongoing developmental and military projects in their various stages of implementation.”

This campaign targets civilian infrastructure projects, such as the construction of rail lines and highways, as well as the establishment of military bases in the region.  Shockingly, the organization also opposes incentives geared toward Israeli hi-tech workers to encourage them to move to the southern city of Be’ersheva.

Background on Who Profits

Who Profits is an Israeli-based NGO that targets corporations for conducting business activities in Israeli communities in the West Bank or Golan, as well as those that have relationships with the Israeli military.

For years, it has served as the primary database for BDS activists seeking to pressure companies to boycott Israel.  Many of the companies in Who Profits’ database have minimal, remote, presumed, and/or non-existent connections to settlements, and are instead targeted for contributing to security procedures and mechanisms or because they relate to routine Israeli government

Moreover, much of the business activity that the NGO reports on is entirely consistent with a host of Israeli-Palestinian agreements endorsed, guaranteed, and witnessed by the international community. Some companies even have contractual agreements directly with the Palestinian Authority.

(For more information on Who Profits, see NGO Monitor’s 2019 report, “Who Profits: Foundation for the UN BDS Blacklist”)

Delegitimization of Israel and accusations of “Judaization”

Who Profits’s focus on business activity in the Negev, as well as the language and comparisons in its report – particularly regarding the country’s establishment and Zionism – underscore its rejection of the legitimacy of Israel as a Jewish state.

According to Who Profits, its campaign “demonstrates how, when it comes to Israel, infrastructure, and development projects in the Naqab as well as in the rest of Palestine, serve as part of the ongoing dispossession and forced displacement of Palestinians.” Who Profits further claimed that “The concept of modernization and ‘making the desert bloom’ is a central pillar of the ideological underpinnings of the Israeli settler-colonial project in Palestine” (emphases added). In other words, Who Profits views Israeli development in the Negev as inherently illegitimate and necessarily adversarial.

Furthermore, in discussing Israeli hi-tech companies, the NGO decries that they are “aggressively incentivized to establish operational facilities in the southern city of Beer al’Saba (Be’er Sheva)…In an age of economic neoliberal Zionism, tech workers mirror the Zionist movement’s early pioneers, implanted in the Naqab to set up Kibbutzim and agricultural farms.”

Such framing reveals the NGO’s portrayal of any Israeli presence in the Negev as foreign.

The Negev is “Occupied”

Who Profits’ position that Israel has no right to Negev is furthered in its November 2022 report targeting insurance and pensions companies for supporting firms and projects that the NGO deems “violate[] Palestinian rights,” and who “enable and directly profit from…the violation of the rights of Palestinians and Syrian communities.”  

Exemplifying their view of the Negev as “occupied,” the authors write that clusters of solar panels are “for the benefit of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, and the western and eastern Naqab.”  Likewise, they describe solar projects in the West Bank, Negev, and the Golan, in a single paragraph, implying that business activity in all three areas constitutes illegitimate “settlement” activity.

Projects and Companies in the Negev

As of December 2022, Who Profits’ map features nine projects related to “industrial development,” “urban development,” “transport,” and “military.”  This includes the planned construction of railways, a highway, new neighborhoods in Dimona, IDF bases, and other industrial projects.

For example, Who Profits lists the “Bir al-Saba-Arad Railway,” which would connect the city of Arad to the national railway system through Be’ersheva.

A second project, Ramat Beka Special Military Industrial Zone, is slated to house a number of IDF installations.   According to Who Profits, the project “forms a cornerstone in Israel’s plan to Judaize and industrialize the region” (emphasis added).

In its 2022 report as well, Who Profits complains that the construction of IDF bases in the Negev is “part of a broader process of Judaizing the area, while forcibly displacing Palestinian communities.” (emphasis added)

Land ownership and illegal building

Throughout this platform, Who Profits argues that Bedouin residents will be displaced as part of these building efforts.  Undiscussed is the fact that large numbers of Bedouin encampments in the Negev were constructed illegally, without permits and against zoning regulations. This includes land intended for use in the infrastructure projects that Who Profits opposes.

For example, Bedouins built illegally in an area designated for the construction of the Ramat Beka Special Military Industrial Zone – set to house an Israeli defense firm. In November 2020, the Israeli Supreme Court sustained an appeal from local planning authorities seeking to evict these residents.  According to the ruling, the residential structures had been  constructed illegally, and therefore, were not an impediment to the Ramat Beka project.

Notably, Israeli authorities approved alternative housing for those who would be displaced by the project, including through the expansion of existing Bedouin communities in the area.  Moreover, the plan guaranteed that residents who vacated their homes would receive significant financial compensation and plots of land on which to build new homes.

Negev Bedouin Issue

On its map, Who Profits claims to portray “how Israel’s long-standing policies to Judaize and industrialize serve to dispossess the Naqab’s Palestinian Bedouin inhabitants.”

Entirely ignored are recent government investments in infrastructure, education, and other services for Negev Bedouins.  In February 2017, the Israeli government approved a 3 billion shekel plan to provide jobs in Bedouin communities, build schools and improve educational services, and strengthen local councils.

Additionally, in June 2022, the government approved a 5-year plan for the region, dedicating approximately 5 billion shekels to Bedouin communities.

Funding to Who Profits

Trocaire (Ireland)152,735156,440157,695142,366174,060
Fagforbundet (Norway)36,33038,31441,25347,82344,061
Medico International(Germany)46,65046,67450,98446,116
Rockefeller Brothers Fund (Private)184,879253,269259,280263,791
Church of Sweden182,818181,289186,154105,622210,505
CCFD-Terre Solidaire (France)35,11838,22335,96279,89340,017
Foundation for Middle East Peace (FMEP)22,59425,67026,559
General Board of Global Ministries10,8599,65417,155