United Nations names global companies linked to Israeli settlements

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A blacklist report was released today by the human rights office of the United Nations containing names of 112 companies with ties to illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

"The U.N. Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights has officially chose to endorse anti-Semitic BDS by issuing a defamatory list of companies it claims are supposedly involved in 'settlement activity, '" said Anne Herzberg, legal adviser for NGO Monitor, an Israeli advocacy group that is highly critical of the U.N.

The list of businesses includes Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia, Opodo, TripAdvisor, and Motorola.

The Human Rights Council in 2016 instructed the UN's human rights office to create a "database" of companies deemed to be linked to or supportive of the settlements, which are considered illegal by the vast majority of the worldwide community.

In 2018, Airbnb said it would remove listings in the West Bank, where Israel has built more than 200 settlements. Palestinians deem the settlements, and the military presence needed to protect them, to be obstacles to their goal of establishing a state.

President Donald Trump, however, has taken a more lenient position, tolerating continued Israeli settlement construction and releasing a Mideast plan last month that envisions giving Israel permanent control over all of its settlements.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted at retaliation.

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What does the report say?

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights has acknowledged the list's publication would be controversial.

"Where there are reasonable grounds to believe that ... the business enterprise is ceasing or no longer involved in the relevant activity, the business enterprise would be removed from the database", it said. The remaining 18 are based in six other states: Luxembourg, the U.S., the UK, France, the Netherlands, and Thailand.

"The report makes clear that the reference to these business entities is not, and does not purport to be, a judicial or quasi-judicial process", the OHCHR said.

The report comes in response to a request mandate from the UNHRC dating back to 2016 that called for a database of businesses involved in specific activities relating to the settlements.

Israel, which routinely accuses the United Nations and especially the Human Rights Council of bias against it was quick to slam Wednesday's publication.

What has been the reaction?

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His Palestinian counterpart Riyad al-Malki meanwhile described the publication as "a victory for worldwide law and diplomatic efforts".

Meanwhile, Anne Bayefsky, the director of the Touro Institute on Human Rights and the Holocaust, said in a statement that the release of the "blacklist" will "unleash a wave of revulsion".

Israel's foreign minister, Israel Katz, denounced it as "a "blacklist" of businesses" which he considered a "shameful capitulation to pressure from countries and organisations that are interested in hurting Israel".

The main body representing Jewish settlers, the Yesha Council, said the list had "clear anti-Semitic features" and insisted the companies were "working to strengthen the economy in the area and are contributing to peace more than the United Nations has done in all its years of operation".

Palestinians and much of the world view the settlements as illegal under worldwide law, but the United States and Israel dispute this.

In a reflection of how entrenched the settlements have become, the list is dominated by Israeli companies, including leading banks, construction companies, supermarkets and mobile phone operators.

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