The UN human rights office released Wednesday a long-anticipated report which names companies with ties to Israeli West Bank settlements.
OHCHR said it has reasonable grounds to believe that 112 business entities [For full list see below] have ties to Israeli settlements in the West Bank, 94 based in Israel, and 18 in six other countries.
In 2019, the publication of a UN database of companies with business ties to Israeli settlements in the West Bank was delayed, drawing the ire of activists who campaigned for it for three years.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry has instructed its U.S. consulates to approach governors of states in which listed American firms are based and ask them to condemn the list.
The issue has been highly sensitive as companies appearing in such a database could be targeted for boycotts or divestment aimed at stepping up pressure on Israel over its West Bank settlements, which most countries and the United Nations view as illegal. Goods produced there include fruit, vegetables and wine.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu responded by saying “Whoever boycotts us will be boycotted,” adding that the UN Human Rights Council is a “biased and insignificant body.” It is not coincidental, he said, that he instructed to cut ties with the council, and that the U.S. government “made this step alongside us.”
He added, “In past years, laws have advanced in many U.S. states determining that they must act decisively against those who try to boycott Israel. Therefore, this organization is meaningless. Instead of dealing with human rights, this group only tries to slander Israel.”
Bruno Stagno, Deputy Executive Director for Advocacy at Human Rights Watch, said in an official statement that “The long awaited release of the UN settlement business database should put all companies on notice: to do business with illegal settlements is to aid in the commission of war crimes.
“The database marks critical progress in the global effort to ensure businesses end complicity in rights abuse and respect international law. The UN’s top rights body should ensure that the database is regularly updated to assist companies in complying with their international legal obligations,” he added.
“While the settlements as such are regarded as illegal under international law, this report does not provide a legal characterization of the activities in question, or of business enterprises’ involvement in them,” the office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin condemned the publication of the UN report, praising some of the companies listed in the document.
“I am proud to give these businesses a platform. Proud to be Israeli. I am proud that these are Israeli businesses, patriots who contribute to Israeli society, to economy and to peace. Although we do not promote private businesses here in this house, when Israeli businesses are under the threat of boycott, we will stand with them.”
Rivlin said boycotting Israeli companies does not advance the cause of peace and does not build confidence between the sides. “We call on our friends around the world to speak out against this shameful initiative which reminds of dark periods in our history,” he said.