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UN Publishes Blacklist of Companies Doing Business With Israeli Settlements

(February 12, 2020)

BDS-promoting organizations pressured the UN Human Rights Council and the High Commissioner for Human Rights to publish a database of companies operating in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem. The intention was to create a blacklist that would identify companies they could target for boycotting because their business raises “particular human rights concerns” like facilitating the construction, expansion or maintenance of Israeli settlements or the demolition of Palestinian housing and property. The compilation of the list was mandated by a March 2016 resolution by the HRC, but its publication was delayed until February 12, 2020.

The list compiled by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights includes banks, cable companies, cafes and grocery stores, cellphone providers and real estate firms. Most of the 112 companies on the blacklist are Israeli but a few are international companies, including Motorola Solutions, General Mills, Airbnb, TripAdvisor, and Expedia from the United States; Alstom and Egis Rail of France; and JC Bamford Excavators of Britain.

 “Whoever boycotts us will be boycotted,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that called the Human Rights Council “a biased body that is devoid of influence.”

Saeb Erekat, secretary general of the Palestine Liberation Organization, said it “enhances and consolidates the credibility of the Human Rights Council and international organizations in the face of the fierce attack and the intense pressure that the Trump administration places on these institutions.”

The BDS movement described the list as a “first significant and concrete step by any UN entity” toward holding Israeli and international businesses to account for profiting from Israeli settlements.

UN Watch Executive Director Hillel Neuer noted that “Doing business in disputed territories has never been prohibited under international law, nor, until today, subject to a UN blacklist. For example, the EU has business and financial dealings in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara and in Turkish-occupied Northern Cyprus.” He added that “out of more than 100 territorial disputes in the world today, including in Tibet, Kashmir, Crimea, Western Sahara and Northern Cyprus, the UN chose only to blacklist companies doing business in Israel’s disputed territories.”

“As several major democracies wrote the UN, the world body has no legal mandate to tell companies where they should or should not operate,” Neuer continued. “Moreover, if this were really about human rights, then the key factor would be a consideration of whether Palestinian human rights are actually violated, yet that’s ignored.”

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said:

I am outraged that High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet published a database of companies operating in Israeli-controlled territories.  The United States has long opposed the creation or release of this database, which was mandated by the discredited UN Human Rights Council in 2016. Its publication only confirms the unrelenting anti-Israel bias so prevalent at the United Nations….We call upon all UN member states to join us in rejecting this effort, which facilitates the discriminatory boycott, divestment, and sanction (BDS) campaign and delegitimizes Israel. Attempts to isolate Israel run counter to all of our efforts to build conditions conducive to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that lead to a comprehensive and enduring peace.

Sources: UN Watch, (February 12, 2020);
Nick Cumming-Bruce, “U.N. Publishes List of Firms Doing Business With Israeli Settlements,” New York Times, (February 12, 2020);
Steve Hendrix, “U.N. report identifies 112 companies doing business with Israeli settlements,” Waashington Post, (February. 12, 2020);
“UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights Database Report Release,” Press Statement, Michael R. Pompeo, Secretary Of State, (February 13, 2020).