The UN has published a list of companies with business ties to Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, including the US-based TripAdvisor and Airbnb and the British truck and digger maker JCB.

Most of the 112 companies linked to settlements, which are regarded as illegal under international law, were Israeli. The list included 18 international firms, including the London-based online travel agency Opodo and the Netherlands-based Booking.com.

The UN statement made clear the report was not part of a judicial process and the database will have no immediate legal implications for the companies. However, an official list published by a UN agency could lend energy to pro-Palestinian efforts to pressure governments and consumers to take action such as boycotts against businesses linked to the occupation.

“I am conscious this issue has been, and will continue to be, highly contentious,” said Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights, who was tasked with producing the database. “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.”

Palestinian officials immediately welcomed the publication. Husam Zomlot, the head of the Palestinian mission to the UK, said on Twitter: “A good day for peace & the international rules based order. And a timely message for those who push us towards chaos & lawlessness.”

The Palestinian foreign minister, Riyad al-Malki, lauded the report as a “victory for international law and diplomatic efforts”.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, a pro-Palestinian group leading calls for the use of boycotts to pressure Israel, said the database was “a very significant first concrete step by any UN entity towards holding to account Israeli and international corporations”.

Reuven Rivlin, the Israeli president, warned against threats of boycotts. “We call on our friends around the world to speak out against this shameful initiative.”

The UN list included a vast array of prominent Israeli companies in major sectors – from food to transport and communications – that work both in the occupied West Bank but also represent a large part of the country’s economy.

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 country’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, speaking to a local radio station, said he would “fight this with all our strength”.

His domestic rival, Benny Gantz, head of the main Israeli opposition party, Blue and White, also rebuked the report. “This is a dark day for human rights. The Office of the high commissioner for human rights has lost touch with reality,” he said in a statement.

The UN’s human rights council, a body composed of 47 states elected every three years, adopted a resolution in 2016 asking the office of the UN high commissioner for human rights to produce the report.

Travel companies, in particular, had been accused of financially benefiting from the Israeli occupation, by listing rooms in settler-owned houses and guesthouses in the Palestinian territories. In 2018, Airbnb said it would remove from its website all properties in Israeli settlements. But following an uproar in Israel, the firm reversed its decision a few months later.

JCB has long been criticised by rights activists as the Israeli military has been photographed using it bulldozers in the West Bank, where it regularly demolishes Palestinian homes and buildings.

Israel captured the West Bank from Jordanian forces in 1967 and continues to control and occupy the area, while Palestinians living there have limited self-rule over small enclaves. Palestinians and most of the world view the settlements as illegal under international law.

Israel disagrees and in November, in a dramatic break with longstanding US foreign policy, the Trump administrated sided with its ally, saying it no longer necessarily considered the settlements illegal.

The Guardian has contacted JCB, Opodo, Airbnb, TripAdvisor and Booking.com for comment.


SOURCE : The Gurdian

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