UN Palestinian rights official calls for ban on Israeli settlement products

UN Palestinian rights official calls for ban on Israeli settlement products

Michael Lynk also urges release of long-delayed database on companies active in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Golan Heights

Michael Lynk briefs reporters at UN headquarters in New York on October 26, 2017. (Kim Haughton/UN)
Michael Lynk briefs reporters at UN headquarters in New York on October 26, 2017. (Kim Haughton/UN)

UNITED NATIONS — The UN independent expert on human rights in the Palestinian territories on Wednesday called for an international ban on all products made in Israeli settlements, as a step to potentially end Israel’s 52-year-old “illegal occupation” of the West Bank.

Michael Lynk, the Special Rapporteur on Palestinian territories, told the General Assembly’s human rights committee Wednesday that the international community should also issue “a clarion call to the United Nations” to complete and release a database “on businesses engaged in activities related to the illegal settlements.”

Lynk said the international community has a responsibility and a legal obligation to compel Israel to completely end its occupation and remove barriers to self-determination for the Palestinians.

Israel is deeply opposed to a Palestinian-led international boycott movement, which it views as an attack on its very existence. Supporters of the boycotts say they are a non-violent way of protesting Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.

The UN Human Rights Council has repeatedly delayed the release of a controversial report about companies doing business in Israeli settlements, which was originally to be published in 2017.

File: The UN Human Rights Council during a session in Geneva, Switzerland. (UN photo)

The list has been said to include 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.

Israeli officials have 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 UNHRC first voted in 2016 for the creation of the database, which is intended to list all companies doing business with Israelis situated in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, but its release has since been repeatedly delayed. It was expected to be published during the council’s session that ends March 22, but was put off again.

Israel is not a member of the 47-member UNHRC, while the US pulled out in June 2018 and later cut its funding to the organization, partly due to what Washington called its “unrelenting bias” against Israel.

Lynk has in the past urged economic sanctions against Israel, calling for the international community to step up pressure on Israel.

“If there was an understanding that all of a sudden Israelis wanting to travel abroad needed to have visas, if all of a sudden there was an understanding that Israel wasn’t going to get preferential trading agreements with the EU, if all of a sudden the many and multitude forms of military or economic cooperation or academic cooperation with Israel were now going to come to an end… I think you’d begin to see a sea change in the attitude of ordinary Israelis and in the attitude of the Israeli government,” he said in 2017.

Before the Canadian’s appointment in 2016, Jewish groups and Canada’s main opposition party said Lynk had exhibited a long-held and public anti-Israel bias, including calling for Israel to be prosecuted for war crimes, accusing Israel of ethnic cleansing, addressing conferences promoting one state, and serving as a leader of a group that promotes Israel Apartheid Week.

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