UN releases report on companies active in occupied West Bank settlements

The Jewish settlement Ma'ale Adumim on the outskirts of Jerusalem (Ahmad Gharabli - AFP)

The National  /  February 12, 2020

The firms listed include travel companies Airbnb, Expedia and TripAdvisor, and tech giant Motorola.

The United Nations human rights office on Wednesday issued a report on companies it said have business ties to Israeli settlements in the West Bank, a long-delayed move likely to draw the ire of Israel and its main ally the United States.

The 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”.

In a statement, 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 states.

“While the settlements as such are regarded as illegal under international law, this report does not provide a legal characterisation of the activities in question, or of business enterprises involvement in them,” the office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said.

The Palestinian foreign minister lauded the release of the report.

“The publication of the list of companies and parties operating in settlements is a victory for international law,” said a statement issued by Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki’s office.

Mr Al Maliki urged UN-member states and the UN Human Rights council to “issue recommendations and instructions to these companies to end their work immediately with the settlements.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz called the report a “shameful capitulation” to anti-Israel groups.

“It is a shameful surrender to pressure from countries and organisations who want to harm Israel,” he said in a statement.

Israel has in the past condemned what it called the looming UN “blacklist.” It claims the settlements are built in disputed territory and says their status should be finalised in negotiations.

Israeli officials fear the list could be used to boycott firms with ties to the Israeli settlements. In recent weeks, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to annex Israel’s more than 100 settlements in the occupied West Bank, but under American pressure, he has put the plan on hold until after March 2 elections.

The rights council, which is made up of 47 governments, had never before requested such a list scrutinizing corporate activities.

The release of the report, a politically fraught document that could cast a shadow over firms doing business in Palestinian areas, has been repeatedly delayed.

The UN agency said compiling the database had been a “complex process” involving “widespread discussions” with states, think tanks, academics and the companies themselves.

The office said it reviewed more than 300 firms as part of the process.