Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein - CC via Flickr - US Mission Geneva
CAIRO – 23 August 2017: United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein informed U.S. officials that a list of international companies that enabled or profited from the growth of Israeli settlements will be published by the end of the year, according to The Washington Post, which cited unnamed diplomats.
The list of international companies, which is supposed to be updated annually, was approved by the U.N. Human Rights Council in March 2016. The list contains countries where the companies are headquartered, and the Human Rights council requested comments by each country by September 1. The list includes companies from the U.S., including Caterpillar, Trip Advisor, Priceline.com and Airbnb.
Al-Hussein explained that consumers and travelers have the right to know this information and that the list represents a resource for them.
In December 2016, the U.N. Security Council passed a resolution that called on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.” It also stated that the building of settlements by Israel has “no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.” Following this resolution, the Palestinian National Authority (PA) called on the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel’s settlement expansion in the West Bank.
The Human Rights Council cannot levy any sanctions on the listed companies, but it is possible for other U.N. committees and the U.N Security Council to take action.
How was the list developed?
The proposal for developing a list of international companies that do business in Israeli settlements was put forward by the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Arab states. The idea arose from efforts to target companies that did business in South Africa during its Apartheid era. The PA aimed to condemn the Israeli settlements on Palestinian territories that are part of the Palestinian state. The PA and the Arab states called on companies not to do business with the illegal Israeli settlements.
The U.N. Human Rights Council thoroughly examined the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people. The council came to the conclusion in June that the Israeli occupation that began in 1967 violates international law and has denied the Palestinians many of their most fundamental freedoms.
In March, the Human Rights Council motion was passed with 32 states voting in favor and 15 abstentions. No country voted against it. Some of the European Union members opposed the list, but they did not vote against the resolution.
The U.S. and Israel reaction to the list:
In 2016, and during the voting process to approve the list in the U.N. Human Rights Council, the U.S. and Israel objected to the list and described it as a prelude to anti-Israel boycotts. Both the U.S. and Israel unsuccessfully opposed U.N. funding for work related to the list.
On Monday, Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon described the company list as, “An expression of modern anti-Semitism.” Danon added, “Instead of focusing on the terrible humanitarian problems plaguing the globe, the Human Rights Commissioner is seeking to harm Israel.”
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted that this list would help the Palestinian “boycott, divestment and sanctions” (BDS) campaign, which he says, “unfairly singles out Israel for economic punishment.”
The U.S. argued that the Human Rights Council went beyond its mandate by ordering the list and called also on the U.N. not to publish the list, describing it as a “black list”. U.S. State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert commented on the Human Rights Council’s intention to publish the list by saying, “The United States has been adamantly opposed to this resolution from the start and has fought against it before several U.N. bodies. These types of resolutions are counterproductive and do nothing to advance Israeli-Palestinian issues.”
She added, “We have made clear our opposition regarding the creation of a database of businesses operating in Israeli settlements in the occupied territories, and we have not participated and will not participate in its creation or contribute to its content.”
Furthermore, in June, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikkie Haley called the list “shameful”, and the U.S. announced that it is considering withdrawing from the Human Rights Council for being biased against Israel and too forgiving of autocrats and dictators. She added, “It is an attempt to provide an international stamp of approval to the anti-Semitic BDS movement. It must be rejected.”
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is a campaign launched 12 years ago to end international support for Israel’s oppression of Palestinians and pressure Israel to comply with international law, according to the movement’s official website.