The United Nations reportedly sent letters to some 150 Israeli and overseas companies, threatening to add them to its blacklist of firms operating in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.
Senior anonymous Israeli officials told the Haaretz daily on Wednesday that UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein sent the letters two weeks ago. Several of the companies reportedly replied to Hussein that they do not plan to renew existing contracts or to sign new ones.
The officials said that Hussein wrote in the letter — copies of which had been seen by the government — that due to their activities in the “occupied Palestinian territories” they may be added to the blacklist being compiled by the UN of companies “that operate in opposition to international law and in opposition of UN resolutions.”
An unnamed western diplomat told Haaretz that more than half of the companies that received the warning letter were Israeli, about 30 were from the US and the remainder from countries including Germany, Norway and South Korea. The diplomat added that Hussein also sent copies of the letter to foreign ministries of several countries who are home to companies which may be added to the blacklist.
Earlier this month Channel 2 reported that among those on the UN Human Rights Council list are Coca-Cola, TripAdvisor, Airbnb and Caterpillar.
Israeli companies on the list reportedly include pharmaceutical giant Teva, the national phone company Bezeq, bus company Egged, the national water company Mekorot and the country’s two largest banks, Hapoalim and Leumi.
The US has threatened to withdraw from the international forum if the list is published.
Last year, the UN body voted to compile a database of all business enterprises that have enabled or profited from the growth of Israeli settlements in areas Palestinians see as part of their future state. The resolution passed with 32 nations voting in favor and 15 abstentions.
The proposal, put forward by the Palestinian Authority and Arab states in 2016, included a condemnation of settlements and called on companies not to do business with Israeli settlements.
In June, the US ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, condemned the blacklist as “the latest in this long line of shameful actions” taken by the UNHRC. Haley went on to warn that the US could withdraw from the 47-member body unless it reformed, ending its built-in procedural mechanism to condemn Israel, and banning notorious human rights violators from serving on the council.
Since 2007, Israel has been the only country whose alleged human rights abuses are regularly discussed in the framework of a single permanent item on the Human Rights Council’s agenda.