United Nations Blacklists Companies with Ties to Israeli Settlements

The United Nations on Wednesday published its long awaited list of Israeli businesses that operate over the pre-1967 lines, in east Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

The publication of the data base, which the United States had long worked to suppress, comes in the aftermath of the Trump administration’s recognition that West Bank settlements are not illegal and that Israel can apply sovereignty to the communities in Judea and Samaria.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said it had identified 112 business entities – 94 domiciled in Israel and 18 in six other countries – which it has reasonable grounds to conclude have ties with Israeli settlements. These countries include the United States, Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, Thailand and Luxembourg.

The companies boycotted included major international food conglomerate General Mills, which produces world-renowned brands such as Cheerio’s cereal and Häagen-Dazs ice cream; American hospitality company Airbnb; communications company Motorola Solutions; and transportation company Egged, along with many others.

The OHCHR had initially set about compiling the list in 2016, at the request of the Human Rights Council, so that it could highlight the illegality of such activity.

“Those who boycott us will be boycotted themselves,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement.

“The UN Human Rights Council is a biased and uninfluential body. There is a reason why I already instructed to sever any connection with this body, and the US administration took that step with us. In recent years, we have promoted laws… stating that steps must be taken against anyone attempting to boycott Israel. Therefore, this body is insignificant. Instead of the organization dealing with human rights, it only attempts to discredit Israel. We reject any such attempt.”

Foreign Minister Israel Katz accused the UN of shamefully surrendering to organizations that sought to harm Israel.

“The high commissioner’s decision to continue the UN Human Rights Council’s (UNHRC) anti-Israeli stance is a stain on her office,” Katz said.

He accused High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet as being a servant and accomplice of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.

Katz noted that the list has no legal standing and that the council, which commissioned the list in 2016, was made up nations that are human rights violators.

“The State of Israel will not accept such discriminatory and anti-Israeli policies, and we will work in all ways to prevent such decisions from being implemented,” Katz said.

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan slammed the blacklist as a disgraceful decision, adding that the only thing it will achieve is hurting “the livelihoods of thousands of Palestinians who coexistence and cooperate with Israelis on a daily basis in Judea and Samaria.”

President Reuven Rivlin listed several companies on the list and said he was proud to give these business a platform.

“I am proud to give a platform to these businesses. Proud to be Israeli,” he said in a statement. “I am proud that these are Israeli businesses, patriots [who] are contributing to Israeli society, economy and peace.”

“When Israeli business companies are under threat of boycott, we will stand by them. Boycotting Israeli companies is not conducive to peace and building trust between the parties.”

Diaspora Affairs Minister Tzipi Hotovely called the blacklist a “shameful, hypocritical” decision, and said that “no blacklist will undermine the historical connection of the Jewish people to their country.”

The Yesha Council condemned the blacklist as antisemitic.”For the State of Israel, these are businesses that work to strengthen the region’s economy and contribute to peace more than anything the UN has done in all its years of operation.

The council also called on the Israeli people to support the companies on the list.

Samaria Regional Council head Yossi Dagan said that in response to the blacklist, the State of Israel should annex the West Bank and apply sovereignty.

“The State of Israel’s answer to this antisemitic decision should be to apply sovereignty,” he said in a statement, adding that, “there is an attempt here to hurt the State of Israel, and make it a leper in public opinion.

“And so the State of Israel should treat it like a war,” Dagan said.

The Palestinian Authority welcomed the publication of the list, which will be debated at the UNHRC’s 43rd session that opens on February 24.

“The publication of the list of companies and parties operating in settlements is a victory for international law,” Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki’s office said.

Maliki urged UN member states and the UN Human Rights Council to “issue recommendations and instructions to these companies to end their work immediately with the settlements.”

“We will pursue companies listed in the report legally through international legal institutions and in courts in their countries for taking part in human rights violations in Palestine,” PA Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said, according to Reuters, adding that Palestinians will “demand compensation” for what he called the “use of our occupied land illegally.”

UNHRC documents have no standing in and of themselves, but are often used as the basis for UN decisions elsewhere. They could also become part of the PA’s drive to pursue Israel at the International Criminal Court. The ICC is already examining whether to allow for legal action on the issue of Israeli settlements.

The OHCHR said that, “while the settlements as such are regarded as illegal under international law, this report does not provide a legal characterization of the activities in question, or of business enterprises’ involvement in them.”

“I am conscious this issue has been, and will continue to be, highly contentious,” Bachelet said.

“However, after an extensive and meticulous review process, we are satisfied this fact-based report reflects the serious consideration that has been given to this unprecedented and highly complex mandate, and that it responds appropriately to the Human Rights Council’s request contained in resolution 31/36,” she said.

Anne Herzberg, legal adviser and UN Liaison at NGO Monitor said, “Working at the behest of the notorious UN Human Rights Council, the UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights has officially decided to endorse antisemitic BDS by issuing a defamatory list of companies it claims are supposedly involved in ‘settlement activity.’”

She continued: “These companies have done nothing wrong, and many are involved in providing goods and services to Palestinians pursuant to the Oslo Accords.

“This list was made in conjunction with pro-BDS and PFLP-linked NGOs,” Herzberg said. “All countries targeted by OHCHR, particularly Israel and the United States, should reassess their relationships with Commissioner Bachelet’s office, including cancelling all cooperation and the millions of dollars and euros provided to her each year in funding. The maligned companies should begin assessing plans to take legal action against the UN officials who prepared the list and those who will propagate its false claims.”

In addition, the companies were not given any notice that the list was coming out today, she added.

Bruno Stagno, deputy executive director for advocacy at Human Rights Watch, said, “The long awaited release of the UN settlement business database should put all companies on notice: to do business with illegal settlements is to aid in the commission of war crimes. The database marks critical progress in the global effort to ensure businesses end complicity in rights abuse and respect international law. The UN’s top rights body should ensure that the database is regularly updated to assist companies in complying with their international legal obligations.”

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