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World U.N. report identifies 112 companies doing business with Israeli settlements

06:35  13 february  2020
06:35  13 february  2020 Source:   washingtonpost.com

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The Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim in the West Bank. The United Nations published a list of 112 companies doing business with Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories, on Wednesday.Credit Dan Balilty for The New York Times.

By Stephanie Nebehay. GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations' human rights office on Wednesday named 112 companies it said have business ties to Jewish settlements in the West Bank, angering Israel and prompting a Palestinian threat of legal action against the firms.

JERUSALEM —The United Nations released a long-anticipated, and explosive, list of companies doing business with Israeli settlements in the West Bank on Wednesday, a compilation hailed by activists as potential leverage against expanding communities they see as illegal and condemned by Israeli officials as biased and, by some, as anti-Semitic.

a group of people walking in front of a store: A man pushes a shopping cart outside Shufersal, Israel's largest supermarket chain, in the West Bank settlement of Mishor Adumim.© Ammar Awad/Reuters A man pushes a shopping cart outside Shufersal, Israel's largest supermarket chain, in the West Bank settlement of Mishor Adumim.

The U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva said it had reasonable grounds to identify 112 businesses — most based in Israel but several from the United States and Europe — that have business ties with the settlements. The companies range from multinational cereal giant General Mills to an Israeli bakery chain.

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The companies identified include Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia Group and Motorola Solutions. The report names 112 business entities the office says it has reasonable grounds to conclude have The settlements are widely considered illegal under international law, though Israel has always disputed

The UN has released a list of 112 companies with activities in Israeli settlements , which are considered The UN rights office said that listing companies in the database was "not, and does not purport to But the final report published Wednesday cited 112 business entities that the office had

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The list, which does not accuse any of the companies of illegal activity, was compiled at the request of the U.N. Human Rights Council following a 2016 U.N. resolution passed at the behest of Arab countries. The resolution mandated the naming of companies that were bolstering settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights through certain kinds of business activities. Those include providing surveillance gear, equipment to either build settlement structures or demolish Palestinian ones, banking and financial services, and tools used to usurp water or land.

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The UN report comes in response to a 2016 UN Human Rights Council resolution calling for a "database for all businesses engaged in specific activities related to Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory". The UN rights office said that listing companies in the database was

It said it had identified 112 business entities which it has reasonable grounds to conclude have ties with Israeli settlements - 94 domiciled in Israel and 18 in six other countries including the United States, Britain and France. Inclusion on the list has no immediate legal implications for the companies .

Michelle Bachelet, the current high commissioner for human rights, acknowledged the thankless task she had been handed.

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

The list debuted in the midst of a heated push to annex the settlements in light of unprecedented support from an American president. President Trump has declared that U.S. policy no longer views the settlements as inherently illegal, and his just-released peace plan allows for most of them to be absorbed into Israel proper.

Israel has bitterly protested the prolonged compilation of the list, which it said was designed to fortify a global boycott movement that many Israelis denounce as being intent on Israel’s destruction. The list’s release sparked furious response from across the country’s political spectrum.

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In a statement, it said it had identified 112 business entities which it has reasonable grounds to conclude have ties with Israeli settlements - 94 Her office said the report " does not provide a legal characterization of the activities in question, or of business enterprises’ involvement in them."

It said it had identified 112 business entities which it has reasonable grounds to conclude have ties with Israeli settlements - 94 domiciled in Israel and 18 in six other countries including the United States, Britain and France. Inclusion on the list has no immediate legal implications for the companies .

“The UN Commissioner’s announcement regarding the publication of a ‘blacklist’ of companies represents the ultimate surrender to pressure exerted by countries and organizations interested in harming Israel,” Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said in a statement.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dismissed the commission itself as “insignificant.” His chief rival in next month’s national election, former army chief Benny Gantz, said: “This is a dark day for human rights. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has lost touch with reality.”

“Another disgraceful decision by the Human Rights Council, which proves once again the U.N.’s consistent anti-Semitism and Israel-hatred,” said Minister of Strategic Affairs Gilad Erdan, who is heading a high-level effort to combat the global boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign that Israel views as a grave strategic threat.

But Palestinian officials and human rights activists hailed the list’s release.

Longtime Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat congratulated the Human Rights Council for completing their investigation in the face of “fierce attacks” from Israel and the Trump administration. Israel is not a member of the council, and the United States withdrew in 2018.

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The Israeli settlement of Beitar Illit in the Israeli -occupied West Bank, January 29, 2020. The UN human rights office said on Wednesday it had identified 112 business entities for which it has reasonable grounds to conclude to have ties to Israeli settlements in the West Bank – 94 domiciled

Israeli officials fear the list could be used to boycott firms with ties to the Israeli settlements . Among the businesses on the list are a range of large On Wednesday, the final report cited 112 business entities that the office had “reasonable grounds to conclude have been involved in one or more of the

“While this list does not include all the companies profiting from Israel’s illegal colonial-settlement enterprise in occupied Palestine, it’s a crucial first step to restore hope in multilateralism and international law,” Erekat said. “This database is the first concrete step towards holding Israel accountable for its illegal colonial-settlement enterprise in over half a century.”

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said the companies would be pursued “legally through international legal institutions and in courts in their countries for taking part in human rights violations in Palestine.”

The BDS movement itself immediately called on its followers to use the report as a target list. “These companies must be held to account, including through strategic boycotts and divestment campaigns,” the group said in a statement.

The list includes a range of business types, from banks to cable companies, cafes and grocery stores, cellphone providers and real estate firms. Airbnb, which had been previously singled out by boycott activists, made the list, as did the tourist review site TripAdvisor.

The report does not specify the type of activity each business is engaged in and specifies that a company that stops activity in the settlements would be removed.

“The long-awaited release of the U.N. settlement business database should put all companies on notice: To do business with illegal settlements is to aid in the commission of war crimes,” said Omar Shakir, Human Rights Watch’s Israel and Palestine director, who was ordered out of Israel last year after the Israeli Supreme Court found he had violated the country’s ban on supporting BDS activity.

steve.hendrix@washpost.com

Ruth Eglash contributed to this report.

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