'Another stain on the already blemished record of the UN'

Pompeo says settlement blacklist shows UN’s ‘unrelenting anti-Israel bias’

Secretary of state ‘outraged’ at release of database, calls on other nations to counter bid to ‘facilitate’ BDS campaign

In this file photo taken on December 11, 2019, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo holds a press conference at the State Department in Washington, DC. (Saul Loeb/AFP)
In this file photo taken on December 11, 2019, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo holds a press conference at the State Department in Washington, DC. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

The top US diplomat expressed outrage Thursday at the UN rights chief’s publication of a blacklist of companies that do business in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

The list’s publication “only confirms the unrelenting anti-Israel bias so prevalent at the United Nations,” Mike Pompeo said in a statement released by the State Department.

“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,” Pompeo said.

He added that the US would not cooperate with the UN agency’s effort to “isolate Israel.”

“The United States has not provided, and will never provide, any information to the Office of the High Commissioner to support compilation of these lists and expresses support for US companies referenced. 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.”

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet at the opening day of the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, February 25, 2019 (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP)

The US ambassador to Israel, David Friedman, also slammed the release of the list, tweeting, “Yet another stain on the already blemished record of the United Nations’ reflexive bias against Israel. Commissioner Bachelet, if your focus is truly advancing human rights, you have gotten this exactly wrong!”

Nearly four years in the making, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights on Wednesday unexpectedly published a list of 112 companies that conduct business in Israeli settlements.

Ninety-four of the companies are Israeli, including all major banks, state-owned transportation companies Egged and Israel Railways Corporation, and telecommunications giants Bezeq, HOT and Cellcom. It also lists medium-size companies such as restaurant chain Café Café and Angel Bakeries.

Of the 18 that are foreign, six are based in the US, four in the Netherlands, three in the UK, three in France, and one each in Luxembourg and Thailand. They include Motorola, Airbnb, Trip Advisor, Expedia and General Mills (all from the US), Alstom (from France) and Greenkote (from the UK).

Israel reacted angrily to the list’s publication, denouncing the UN body responsible for compiling it and vowing to protect Israeli financial interests. The Palestinians, meanwhile, celebrated a “victory for international law.”

The UN Human Rights Council in Geneval discusses a resolution condemning Israeli actions on the Golan Heights, March 22, 2019 (screen shot UN WebTV)

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,” Israeli 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. Many other countries were also opposed to releasing it. It was unclear why it was released this week. Israeli diplomatic officials on Wednesday said they were only given one hour warning before the document was published.

According to Israeli officials, Bachelet has consistently refused to meet with Israeli diplomats to discuss the blacklist.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry said Wednesday it was suspending its ties with the High Commissioner for Human Rights, though 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.

A view of the Ma’ale Adumim settlement in the West Bank, January 28, 2020. (Menahem Kahana/AFP)

The US left the Council in June 2018, citing its “chronic bias against Israel.”

“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.”

“Boycotting Israeli companies does not advance the cause of peace and does not build confidence between the sides. We call on our friends around the world to speak out against this shameful initiative which reminds us of dark periods in our history,” President Reuven Rivlin said at an event Thursday at his official residence in Jerusalem.

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 said Wednesday. The list will be updated annually.

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki welcomed the list.

Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki addresses the General Assembly prior to a vote on December 21, 2017, at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

“The publication of this list of companies and parties working in the settlements is a victory for international law,” he said in a statement posted on the ministry’s Facebook page. He also 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.

“I am conscious this issue has been, and will continue to be, highly contentious,” said Bachelet.

“However, after an extensive and meticulous review process, we are satisfied this fact-based report reflects the serious consideration that has been given to this unprecedented and highly complex mandate, and that it responds appropriately to the Human Rights Council’s request contained in resolution 31/36,” Bachelet said, referring to the council resolution that asked for the report.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet listens during a meeting with Venezuela’s Education Minister Aristóbulo Istúriz, at the Foreign Ministry in Caracas, Venezuela, June 20, 2019. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

The database’s publication this week comes only three months after the European Court of Justice ruled that the labeling regimen for Israeli products from the West Bank was mandatory.

The Yesha Council umbrella group of settler leaders 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.

Adam Rasgon contributed to this report.

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