United Nations releases database of 112 firms linked to Israeli settlements

United Nations releases database of 112 firms linked to Israeli settlements

The United Nations human rights office issued a report on Wednesday on companies it said have business ties to Israeli settlements in the West Bank, drawing ire from Israel but winning praise from Palestinians. "We strongly reject this contemptible effort", he said.

Other names include consumer food maker General Mills, tech and communications giants Motorola Solutions and Altice Europe, and infrastructure companies like France's Egis and Alstom, and British company JC Bamford Excavators.

It said 94 of the listed companies had their headquarters in Israel, while 18 others were spread across six other countries.

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.

Among these was the US-based home-sharing company, Airbnb.

While the office of Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has apparently tried to downplay the importance of the report - insisting it was not a "blacklist" and was not meant to qualify any of the companies' business activities as illegal - the document still provoked a furious reaction in some quarters.

But it said the database was incomplete and called for all companies with a role in Israel's "apartheid regime" and "grave violations of Palestinian rights under global law" to be included.

"Where there are reasonable grounds to believe that ... the business enterprise is ceasing or no longer involved in the relevant activity, the business enterprise would be removed from the database", it said.

In 2018, Airbnb said it would remove from its website all properties in Israeli settlements.

Palestinian foreign minister Riyad al-Malki applauded the publication as a "victory for worldwide law and diplomatic efforts".

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.

The companies were not informed prior to the publication of the list.

Omar Awadallah, the head of public administration for United Nations human rights organisations at the Palestinian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, talks to Al Jazeera.

He went on to note that the council constituted countries that are major human rights violators on the world stage.

Last month, US President Donald Trump unveiled a peace plan that may pave the way for Israel annexing the settlements. Under U.S. pressure, Netanyahu has put off his annexation plans until after March 2 Israeli elections.

The rights council had never before requested such a list scrutinizing corporate activities. The report said its authors had communicated directly with the companies to allow them to defend themselves or say whether they had changed their operations in the settlements.

Though welcomed by Palestinian leadership, the list prompted a furious response from Israeli leaders who denounced it as an anti-Israel 'blacklist'.

The report was issued on the eve of the U.N. Human Rights Council's main annual session opening in Geneva from Feb 24.

Human Rights Watch, a vocal critic of the settlements, applauded the report.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says Israeli settlements in the contested West Bank do not violate worldwide law, revokes a waiver allowing civilian nuclear activity at Iranian nuclear complex; State Department correspondent Rich Edson reports.

Israel says the movement seeks the country's destruction and accuses it of anti-Semitism - a charge that BDS leaders vociferously reject. "These companies must be held to account, including through strategic boycotts and divestment campaigns", it said. Associated Press writer Dee-Ann Durbin in Detroit contributed.



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