UN reveals illegal Israeli settlements, discloses ties with high-profile companies

by Akeem Alao

The United Nations human rights office has disclosed companies with business ties to illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

In a statement on Wednesday 12th February 2020, the UN body said it identified 112 business entities have have ties with Israeli settlements – 94 domiciled in Israel and 18 in six other countries.

It identified companies listed in the US, France, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Thailand and the United Kingdom. Among these was the US-based home-sharing company, Airbnb.

In its report, the UN office said the companies’ activities called for human rights concerns.

“I am conscious this issue has been, and will continue to be, highly contentious,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said.

She added that the findings had been subject to an extensive and meticulous review process and the report reflects the serious consideration that has been given to this unprecedented and highly complex mandate.

Commenting on the report, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki, hailed the decision, calling a victory for international law.

“Publishing this list of companies and entities operating in the settlements is a victory for international law and diplomatic efforts,” Malki said in a statement.

He urged UN member states and the UN Human Rights Council to issue recommendations and instructions to these companies to end their work immediately with the settlements.

Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh threatened to take international legal action against the companies named in the report, demanding they “immediately close their headquarters and branches inside illegal Israeli settlements because their presence contradicts international and UN resolutions”.

“We will pursue companies listed in the report legally through international legal institutions and in courts in their countries for taking part in human rights violations in Palestine,” Shtayyeh said in a Facebook post.

The companies include travel sites Expedia and TripAdvisor, tech giant Motorola, consumer food maker General Mills and construction and infrastructure companies including France’s Egis Rail and British company, JC Bamford Excavators.

He added Palestinians would also “demand compensation” for what he called “their use of our occupied land illegally.”

Al Jazeera’s Stephanie Dekker, reporting from West Jerusalem, said the report highlights the international community’s stance, that these settlements in the West Bank are “illegal under international law”.

“It doesn’t have any legality in terms of implementing consequences for these companies, but it does open them to the potential for any Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement,” she said.

Wednesday’s report, however, stressed that companies do not have to remain on the database forever.

“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.

The report recommended that the database be updated annually, and urged the Human Rights Council to appoint a group of independent experts to handle this task.

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