An Israeli business owner has said that she is “proud” to have been included on the UN’s blacklist of businesses operating over pre-1967 lines, as her company provides vital security services protecting Israelis.
The United Nations Human Rights Council on Wednesday published its long anticipated controversial blacklist of businesses that operate in Jewish areas, in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights. The list was produced in relation to Human Rights Council resolution 31/36, adopted on March 24, 2016, which mandated the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to produce a database of business enterprises involved in certain activities.
A hundred and twelve businesses were ultimately included in the list, following a period of research, of which 94 are domiciled in Israel.
Among them are Galshan Shvakim, a company providing security, cleaning and human resources services throughout Israel, including in the regions mentioned in the Council’s resolution.
Following publication of the list, Galshan CEO Rachel Risby Raz, who co-owns the company with her husband, took to Twitter to defend her company’s activities in the region.
“I am really quite proud to say that my family’s company is on this list,” she said.
Raz tweeted correspondence between herself and the UN, dating back to a July 2018 letter from the council addressed to her husband asking for more information on the company.
“We have reviewed information that indicates that Galshan appears to be engaged in the supply of security services, equipment and materials to enterprises operating in settlements,” the letter read.
It continued: “It is important that you share any information you may have to enable adequate consideration of whether there are reasonable grounds for inclusion of Galshan in the database, as per the council’s resolution.”
Raz hit back with a detailed letter of her own, in which she described the sort of work her company undertakes.
“Last year, a guard employed by our company was injured in the course of duty while protecting the entrance to [Betar Illit], a ‘settlement’ according to your organization,” she wrote.
“His quick response prevented an armed terrorist from entering the town and attacking innocent people. I hate to think what may have happened if the aforementioned terrorist had managed to enter a school or kindergarten,” she added.
The list was ostensibly drawn up with the aim of letting the world know who works in Israel’s alleged “occupied territories.” However, Raz told the UN that her company, which employs Muslims, Jews, Christians and Druze, that Shvakim does not discriminate.
“Our company competed in a tender to provide guarding services to educational facilities in east Jerusalem. If we had won this contract, we would have been responsible for the safety of the Arab children in these facilities,” she wrote.
“I wonder how your organization would characterize such activities? If we are protecting innocent Arab children is that also considered ‘profiting from the occupation’? Or is it only when we protect Jewish children that we are worthy of inclusion in your database?”
Far from being a discriminatory endeavor, Raz said she and her husband viewed their company as a human-rights firm, “protecting innocent individuals without regard to race, religion or gender from deliberate targeting for political motives.”
She went on to highlight the case of Yotam Ovadia, a 31-year-old father of two who was stabbed to death by a 17-year-old Palestinian in the town of Adom, which Shvakim provides security services to. His murderer came from the same town as Omar al-Abed, who killed three members of the Saloman family in 2017.
“Unfortunately there is in this region, a vehement hatred, fueled by incessant incitement and blatant antisemitism that results in innocent men, women and children being targeted by terrorists and thus needing protection. This type of terror is not a geographical problem confined to the “occupied settlements,” she wrote.
“If the United Nations Human Rights Council does not believe that people have the right to be protected from violent, indoctrinated murderers and that companies that protect innocent people should be placed on some kind of special database, then we will be proud to be included in such a list and will continue to work wherever our services are needed,” Raz concluded.
According to Raz, her letter never received a reply.
On Wednesday, President Reuven Rivlin read out the names of some of the other companies included on the list at an event at his residence in Jerusalem.
“I am proud to give these businesses a platform. Proud to be Israeli. I am proud that these are Israeli businesses, patriots who contribute to Israeli society, to economy and to peace. Although we do not promote private businesses here in this house, when Israeli businesses are under the threat of boycott, we will stand with them,” Rivlin said.