UN identifies companies doing business in illegal settlements

More than 600,000 Jewish settlers live in the occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem. (AFP/File)
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Updated 13 February 2020

UN identifies companies doing business in illegal settlements

  • A 2016 UN Human Rights Council resolution called for a “database for all businesses engaged in specific activities related to Israeli settlements

AMMAN: The UN Human Rights Office on Wednesday issued its long-awaited report on businesses operating in settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

The report was in response to a request by the UN Human Rights Council, contained in a March 2016 resolution, that mandated the office to produce a database of businesses involved in such activities.

The report identifies 112 business entities that the UN Human Rights Office, on the basis of the information it has gathered, has reasonable grounds to conclude have been involved in one or more of the specific activities referenced in the Human Rights Council resolution. Of the 112 business entities identified in the report, 94 are domiciled in Israel and 18 are in six other states.  

The list includes Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia, Opodo, TripAdviser, Motorola, Bank Leumi, Bank Hapoalim, Bezeq, Egged, Indorama Ventures P.C. from Thailand, eDreams from Luxembourg and Altice Europe from the Netherlands.

Michelle Bachelet, the high commissioner for human rights, said: “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.”

Saeb Erekat, secretary of the executive committee of the PLO, welcomed the publication of the list on business entities.

Charles Shammas, a co-founder of the Al-Haq human rights organization, told Arab News that he welcomed the fact that once published, the criteria for inclusion were well articulated and responsibly applied. “The High Commissioner’s office made sure of this. As published, it provides an important tool that can enable states and companies to analyze and determine their own and each others’ obligations and responsibilities in light of international law.”

Shammas explained that while corporations were not bound by international law in the same sense that states were, discussions should remain focused on further clarifying, establishing and accepting responsibility.

“Turning them into a process of naming and shaming will be used to distort, obscure and possibly defeat the publication’s important message and principled purpose,” he said. “This exercise is meant to provide corporations and states with important reference points, occasions and bases on which to acknowledge and act on their responsibilities. It should be an ongoing process presuming all parties’ respect for international law, and their good faith, until the possibility of adhering to these presumptions is exhausted in particular cases. As I understand it, the careful thinking that has gone into the listing of a company is not intended to excite recrimination or impose punishment.”

However, Anis F. Kassim, the consulting editor of The Palestine Yearbook of International Law, told Arab News that companies should be penalized because they were aiding and abating colonization of occupied territories in contravention of the laws of war. “These companies are scooping the natural resources of Palestinian territories, thus depriving the population of their natural wealth.”

Omar Shakir, the Israel and Palestine director of Human Rights Watch, told Arab News that the publication of the report was a major step. “This long-awaited release of the UN database of settlement businesses should put all companies on notice: To do business with illegal settlements is to aid in the commission of war crimes; this is a major step in the global effort to end corporate complicity in rights abuse.”


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