UN rights office publishes list of companies with ties to Israeli settlements in West Bank

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The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Wednesday published a list of 112 companies with specific business ties to Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The report also found that although the settlements are considered illegal under international law, the companies themselves were not necessarily engaged in illegal activity.

This announcement arises from a “specific request by the UN Human Rights Council, contained in a March 2016 resolution, that mandated the office to produce a database” of businesses engaged in certain activities in Israeli West Bank settlements. These activities are identified in the Human Rights Council’s original resolution as being the 10 activities found in Paragraph 96 of the fact-finding mission’s report, from 2013. Those activities are characterized in that report as having “directly and indirectly, enabled, facilitated and profited from the construction and growth of the settlements” and “issues that raise particular human rights violations concerns.”

The investigation reviewed the activities of 321 companies and came to the determination that 112 of those companies were engaging in the specified criteria. Of those companies, 94 are domiciled in Israel, and 18 are domiciled in six other states. They include several prominent companies but most notably Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia Group, and Motorola Solutions. Importantly, despite the implications of this report, it “does not provide a legal characterization of the activities in question, or of business enterprises’ involvement in them.” Such determinations will be saved for the “Member States of the Human Rights Council, which will consider the report during the Council’s next session, beginning on 24 February.”

The release of the list has sparked international controversy with Israel declaring that the list is a shameful capitulation and many Palestinians decreeing it as a victory for human rights. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo also commented on the announcement. In his statement Pompeo said that the US has “long opposed the creation or release of this database, which was mandated by the discredited UN Human Rights Council in 2016” and called on other UN member states not to cooperate with the OHCHR on future investigations.

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