Israel blasts UN list of settlement-linked firms

Published: 12:47 AM, 13 Feb, 2020
Israel blasts UN list of settlement-linked firms
Caption: –AFP file photo
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Israel on Wednesday rejected as “shameful” the UN’s publication of a list of 112 companies that do business in its settlements, while the Palestinians cheered its long-delayed release as a “victory for international law”.

The list published by the United Nations’ human rights office includes a range of large international firms including Airbnb, TripAdvisor, and Motorola Solutions.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted at retaliation.

“Whoever boycotts us will be boycotted,” a statement from his office quoted him as saying.

“We strongly reject this contemptible effort.”

Foreign Minister Israel Katz labelled the move “a shameful surrender to pressure from countries and organisations who want to harm Israel.”

He noted that multiple countries had expressed concern about the list, produced by the office of UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet on a mandate from a 2016 Human Rights Council resolution.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which advocates a wide-ranging embargo of Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians, welcomed the list.

“The publication of this database is a very significant first concrete step by any UN entity towards holding to account Israeli and international corporations that enable and profit from Israel’s illegal settlements, which constitute a war crime,” it said in a statement.

But it said the database was incomplete and called for all companies with a role in Israel’s “apartheid regime” and “grave violations of Palestinian rights under international law” to be included.

Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki applauded the publication as a “victory for international law and diplomatic efforts.”

Chief negotiator Saeb Erekat called the long-delayed report a “crucial first step to restore hope in multilateralism and international law.”

“This announcement enhances and consolidates the credibility of the Human Rights Council and international organisations in the face of the fierce attack and the intense pressure that the Trump administration places on these institutions,” Erekat added.

US President Donald Trump, a close ally of Israel’s rightwing government, reportedly pressed  the UN to shelve the report.

About 600,000 Israelis live in Jewish settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, which are considered illegal under international law.

The Yesha Council which represents settlers said the list showed the UN had “once again proven to be a biased, non-neutral body that acts against the State of Israel”.

Israeli officials have voiced concern that the UN list would be used to justify a large-scale boycott of the country’s private sector.

They have also more broadly questioned the legitimacy of the Human Rights Council.

Israel is the only country subject to a dedicated agenda item at the Council, meaning the Jewish state’s conduct is automatically discussed at each session.

The United States, which no longer considers settlements illegal, has withdrawn from the council, in part over its treatment of Israel.

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