UN omits ‘blacklist’ from report on firms doing business in settlements

Rights body says not enough resources to contact all 206 companies yet, as Israel vows to keep fighting publication of database

A Caterpillar tractor clearing land for Israeli homes in the West Bank, in 2012 (Oren Nahshon/Flash90)
A Caterpillar tractor clearing land for Israeli homes in the West Bank, in 2012 (Oren Nahshon/Flash90)

The United Nations human rights body on Wednesday again delayed the publication of a controversial “blacklist” of companies doing business with Israel in territories captured in 1967, amid intense Israeli lobbying to quash the database.

A report from the UN’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, dated January 26, noted that 206 companies are accused of doing business in the settlements, but didn’t list them. The report noted that only 64 of the companies have been contacted about the allegations so far, necessitating a delay in the publication of their names.

The report blamed “limited resources” for the delay and said the roster would eventually be published.

“Once OHCHR has been in contact with all 206 companies, and subject to determinations of their responses and non-responses, OHCHR expects to provide the names of the companies engaged in listed activities in a future update. Before the determinations on the companies are made public, OHCHR will notify the companies concerned,” the report read.

Israel’s ambassador to the UN Danny Danon slammed the publication of the interim report and said he would continue to fight to have the list trashed.

Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, speaks at the General Assembly, December 21, 2017, at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

“On the day that the UN is marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the UNHRC has chosen to publicize this information about the number of companies operating in Israel,” Danon said in a statement. “This is a shameful act which will serve as a stain on the UNHRC forever. We will continue to act with our allies and use all the means at our disposal to stop the publication of this disgraceful blacklist.”

The database, intended to list all companies doing business with Israelis situated in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, was first delayed in February 2017, nearly a year after the Human Rights Council passed a resolution calling for it to be created. It was again pushed back in December.

Israeli officials has slammed the plan as a “blacklist” meant to encourage boycotts of the Jewish state, and Washington has also expressed concerns over the database. Pro-Palestinian activists have for years encouraged boycotts of companies doing business with Israeli settlements, such as Caterpillar and G4S.

The Israel-based NGO Monitor watchdog group, which has lobbied against the database, said the newest delay pointed to “significant due process concerns” in the creation of the list.

According to the report, 143 of the companies to be included in the list are based in Israel, with another 22 situated in the US, seven in Germany and the rest in a smattering of mostly European countries.

An official speaking on condition of anonymity said earlier that the list includes Israeli banks, supermarkets, restaurant chains, bus lines and security firms, as well as international giants that provide equipment or services used to build or maintain settlements.

Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN high commissioner for human rights, is pictured on a TV screen during the opening of the 36th session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on September 11, 2017. (Laurent Gillieron/ Keystone via AP)

The only company to confirm receiving a warning letter of inclusion on the list has been Bezeq, Israel’s largest telephone company. Others reportedly on the list include Motorola, HP and Israel Aerospace Industries.

The report released this week includes initial findings excoriating the businesses operating in areas considered occupied by the international community and dismissed as insufficient the Israeli argument that they provide jobs for the local Palestinian population.

“This argument does not recognize that the presence of the settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, which is unlawful, serves to depress the Palestinian economy and to reduce opportunities for Palestinian businesses to thrive,” the report stated.

“The violations of human rights associated with the settlements are pervasive and devastating, reaching every facet of Palestinian life,” it said, citing restrictions on movement, freedom of religion, education and land ownership faced by Palestinians in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. “Businesses play a central role in furthering the establishment, maintenance and expansion of Israeli settlements.”

The report also accuses Israel of encouraging business to operate in settlements by providing financial incentives.

“Business enterprises may need to consider whether it is possible to engage in such an environment in a manner that respects human rights,” it said.

Raphael Ahren and AP contributed to this report.

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