UN warns firms not to trade with settlements


September 28, 2017
Sarah Benton


Caterpillar bulldozer clears land for Israeli homes on Palestinian land in  the West Bank, in 2012. Photo by Oren Nahshon/Flash90

UN Sent Warning Letter to 150 Companies for Doing Business in Israeli Settlements

Israeli officials say some of the companies responded to the UN human rights commissioner by saying they won’t renew their contracts in Israel

By Barak Ravid, Haaretz premium
September 27, 2017

The UN’s Human Rights Commissioner began sending letters two weeks ago to 150 companies in Israel and around the world, warning them that they are about to be added to a database of companies doing business in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, senior Israeli officials and Western diplomats involved in the matter told Haaretz.

The Israeli official, who asked to stay anonymous due to the sensitivity of the issue, noted that the letters, sent by Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said these firms were doing business in the “occupied Palestinian territories” and could thus find themselves on the UN blacklist for companies acting in violation of “internal law and UN decisions.” The letters, copies of which also reached the Israeli government, request that these firms send the commission clarifications about their business activities in settlements.


Israeli settler Nir Lavi walks in his vineyard with his son Elad in the Har Bracha Settlement Photo: Debbie Hill for the Telegraph

A Western diplomat, who also requested anonymity, noted that of the 150 companies, some 30 are American, and a number are from countries including Germany, South Korea and Norway. The remaining half are Israeli companies.

The Washington Post reported in August that among the American companies that received letters were Caterpillar, Priceline.com, TripAdvisor and Airbnb. According to the same report, the Trump administration is trying to work with the UN Commission on Human Rights to prevent the list’s publication. Israel’s Channel 2 reported two weeks ago that the list includes some of the biggest companies in Israel, such as Teva, Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, Bezeq, Elbit, Coca Cola Israel, Africa-Israel, IDB, Egged, Mekorot and Netafim.

 

 

 

Bank Hapoalim, Israel’s largest bank, has already lost several investors due to its funding of illegal settlements.

Senior Israeli officials said the Israeli fear of divestment or scaled-down business due to the blacklist is already becoming a reality. They said that the Economy Ministry’s Office of Strategic Affairs has already received information that a number of companies who received the letters have responded to the human rights commissioner by saying they do not intend to renew contracts or sign new ones in Israel.


A date orchard owned by settlers in the Jordan Valley

“These companies just can’t make the distinction between Israel and the settlements and are ending their operations all together,” the senior Israeli official said. “Foreign companies will not invest in something that reeks of political problems – this could snowball.”

An inter-ministerial committee comprising the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Strategic Affairs, Justice and Economy is still working to try to prevent the list’s publication. Nonetheless, the assessment among most of those involved in the government’s efforts is that it is inevitable and that the list is likely to be made public by the end of December.

As part of an attempt to minimize its potential damage, Israeli officials are contacting foreign companies named on the list in order to hold talks with them and to stress that the list is non-binding and insignificant. They have also told them they are reaching out to foreign governments to inform them that using the list is tantamount to co-operating with a boycott of Israel.

In March 2017, the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva voted for the resolution being pushed by the Palestinian Authority and Arab nations, according to which the commission would formulate a database of Israeli and international firms directly or indirectly doing business in the West Bank, East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights. The decision passed despite massive pressure by the U.S. to soften the resolution’s wording. Even an attempt by the EU to reach a deal with the Palestinians to drop the clause from the resolution stipulating the blacklist’s formulation, in return for the support of European nations for the rest of its articles, failed.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights [Prince] Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, formerly Jordan’s ambassador to the US and played a central role in the establishment of the International Criminal Court 

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