United Nations names global companies linked to Israeli settlements

Clay Curtis
February 13, 2020

NGO Monitor, an Israeli group that is highly critical of the rights council, called the list "defamatory" and an endorsement of the anti-Israel boycott movement.

It said it had identified 112 business entities which it has reasonable grounds to conclude have ties with Israeli settlements - 94 domiciled in Israel and 18 in six other countries including the United States, Britain and France.

Israel's foreign minister, Israel Katz, denounced it as "a "blacklist" of businesses" which he considered a "shameful capitulation to pressure from countries and organisations that are interested in hurting Israel".

The Israeli companies listed include large corporations such as all the major banks, transportation firms Egged and Israel Railways Corporation, and all major telecommunications companies, as well as smaller businesses including popular restaurant chains.

Among these was the US-based home-sharing company, Airbnb.

Despite objections by the United States in 2016, the UNHRC instructed the UN Human Rights Office to create an anti-Semitic "database" of firms linked to or in any way "supportive" of Jewish communities in post-1967 territories, which are considered illegal by many in the global community.

The UN statement made clear the report was not part of a judicial process and the database will have no immediate legal implications for the companies.

A spokesman for Michelle Bachelet, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the report was not a "blacklist" and was not meant to qualify any of the companies' business activities as illegal.

Bachelet's office said the report "does not provide a legal characterisation of the activities in question, or of business enterprises involvement in them".

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted at retaliation.

In 2018, Airbnb said it would remove listings in the West Bank, where Israel has built more than 200 settlements.

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Former U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley tweeted the UN "hit a new low today publishing its Antisemitic blacklist of companies it claims are involved in Israeli 'settlement activity'".

"These companies have done nothing wrong and many are involved in providing goods and services to Palestinians pursuant to the Oslo Accords".

Israel and the USA regularly accuse the Human Rights Council of anti-Israel bias, and the Trump administration withdrew the United States in 2018 - faulting the U.N. for accepting autocratic governments that the administration said have repeatedly violated human rights.

Israel is the only country subject to a dedicated agenda item at the Council, meaning the Jewish state's conduct is automatically discussed at each session.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made clear he considered the USA government's position on settlements under President Donald Trump as more important than the views of United Nations organisations.

Anne Herzberg, the group's legal adviser, called on countries to "reassess their relationships" with the rights office and urged the "maligned companies" to consider legal action against United Nations officials who prepared the list.

The United States, which no longer considers settlements illegal, has withdrawn from the council, in part over its treatment of Israel. The report said its authors had communicated directly with the companies to allow them to defend themselves or say whether they had changed their practices.

But Israel's allies accused the council of collaborating with the BDS movement - a grassroots Palestinian-led coalition that advocates boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

Human Rights Watch's deputy advocacy chief Bruno Stagno celebrated the publication of the database.

The report recommended that the database be updated annually, and urged the Human Rights Council to appoint a group of independent experts to handle this task.

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