Palestinian Authority says it will ‘pursue’ companies on UN settlements list
PA premier suggests firms operating in West Bank move to areas under Palestinian control, says Ramallah will ‘demand compensation for illegally using our occupied lands’
The Palestinian Authority said on Wednesday that it will go after companies that are included on the UN Human Rights Council’s list of firms active in West Bank settlements.
Hailing the publication of the list, PA Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh called for companies to shutter their operations in the settlements.
“We will pursue the companies listed in the report legally through international legal institutions and through the courts in their countries for their role in violating human rights,” Shtayyeh was quoted as saying by the PA’s official Wafa news agency.
He called for companies operating in the West Bank to immediately close their offices and branches there, saying they violated international law and UN resolutions.
“We will demand compensation for illegally using our occupied lands and for engaging in economic activity in our lands without submitting to Palestinian laws and paying taxes,” he added.
Shtayyeh also suggested the companies could move to areas controlled by the PA to avoid potential retribution.
Senior Palestinian official Saeb Erekat welcomed the release of the list, calling it a boon to the credibility of the council “in the face of the fierce attack and the intense pressure that the Trump administration places on these institutions.”
“While this list does not include all the companies profiting from Israel’s illegal colonial-settlement enterprise in occupied Palestine, it’s a crucial first step to restore hope in multilateralism and international law,” Erekat said in a statement.
The list “should serve as a reminder to the international community on the importance of strengthening the tools to implement international law at a time when the illegality of Israeli settlements is being challenged,” Erekat said.
Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki also hailed the release of the list.
“The publication of this list of companies and parties working in the settlements is a victory for international law,” al-Maliki said in a statement posted on the ministry’s Facebook page.
He urged member states of the UN Human Rights Council to study the list and recommend and instruct the companies cited on it to terminate their operations in the settlements.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on Wednesday surprisingly published a list of 112 companies that conduct business in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The list was nearly four years in the making.
Israel reacted angrily to the publication of the blacklist, with politicians from across the political spectrum denouncing the UN body responsible for compiling it and vowing to protect Israeli financial interests.
The Foreign Ministry announced it was suspending its ties with the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Foreign Minister Israel Katz’s office said he ordered the “exceptional and harsh measure” in retaliation for Michelle Bachelet’s office “serving the BDS campaign,” referring to the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement.
It was not immediately clear what practical implications the decision would have. The commissioner’s office has representatives stationed in Israel, but they are not known to enjoy good working relations with Israeli diplomats. Officials in Jerusalem on Wednesday evening merely said that any requests they may have will not be answered as of today.
The blacklist names 18 international enterprises, including Motorola, Airbnb, Trip Advisor, Expedia and General Mills (all from the US), Alstom (from France) and Greenkote (from the UK).
Ninety-four of the companies on the list are Israeli, including all major banks, state-owned transportation companies Egged and Israel Railways Corporation, and telecommunications giants Bezeq, HOT and Cellcom. Also listed are medium-size companies such as restaurant chain Café Café and Angel bakeries.
“We will contest this [blacklist] with all of our strength,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Army Radio Wednesday. “We will gain recognition for our sovereignty over these communities and this will cancel its effect.”
“I am proud to give these businesses a platform,” President Reuven Rivlin said after reading out a long list of Israeli companies mentioned on the list.
De facto opposition leader Benny Gantz, who heads the Blue and White party, also decried the database. “This is a dark day for human rights. The UN Human Rights Council has lost touch with reality,” he said.
Businesses may ask to be delisted if they can prove that they no longer provide material support to Israeli settlements, the office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet of Chile, said Wednesday. The list will be updated annually.
In March 2016, the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva passed a resolution requesting the compilation of a database listing “activities that raised particular human rights concerns” in the Palestinian territories. Such activities were defined as providing material and services that would support the expansion of, or help “maintain,” Israel settlements.
Other activities that got companies on the list include the use of the West Bank’s natural resources “in particular water and land,” the pollution of Palestinian villages and “captivity of the Palestinian financial and economic markets, as well as practices that disadvantage Palestinian enterprises, including through restrictions on movement, administrative and legal constraints.”
Israel, the US and the UK for years tried to block the publication of the blacklist. It was unclear why it was published this week.
The database’s publication this week marks a major setback for Israel’s settlement movement, coming only three months after the European Court of Justice ruled that the labeling regime for Israeli products from the West Bank is legally binding.
The Yesha Council umbrella group issued a statement Wednesday accusing the Human Rights Council of anti-Semitism and urging Israeli citizens to make special efforts to purchase goods made in the settlements.
AFP contributed to this report.