JERUSALEM: The United Nations (UN) human rights office on Wednesday (Thursday in Manila) released a list of more than 100 companies it said are complicit in violating Palestinian human rights by operating in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
UN’s revelation about the issue is a first-ever international attempt to name and shame businesses that has drawn fierce Israeli condemnation.
The list’s publication, after repeated delays, escalated a looming showdown between Israel and the international community over its more than half-century policy of building settlements in the West Bank.
Emboldened by a new United States Mideast initiative, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to annex Israel’s more than 100 settlements, while the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague has indicated she will soon launch a war crimes investigation into settlement policies.
The list included well-known global companies, among them Airbnb, Motorola and General Mills. Although the vast majority of the world considers settlements illegal, Wednesday’s report did not accuse the companies of violating international law.
Instead, it appeared to be aimed at pressuring them by drawing negative attention to their ties to a much-maligned Israeli policy.
“I am conscious this issue has been, and will continue to be, highly contentious,” said Michelle Bachelet, the UN high commissioner for human rights.
“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.”
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.
Beginning with a potential list of over 300 companies, it narrowed it down to 112 firms involved in practices that raised human rights concerns, such as settlement construction, security services, banking and equipment that was used to demolish Palestinian property.