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August 31, 2017 10:48 am

Experts Say Upcoming UN ‘Blacklist’ of Companies Tied to Israel Invokes Antisemitism

avatar by Sean Savage / JNS.org

The row of flags of United Nations member countries in front of the UN General Assembly building in New York City. Photo: Yerpo via Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.org – According to experts, an upcoming “blacklist” of major international companies with business ties to Israeli communities in the West Bank, Golan Heights and eastern Jerusalem represents yet another attempt by anti-Israel actors at the UN to single out and demonize the world’s only Jewish state.

The UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) voted to approve the database of businesses with ties to these Israeli communities last year, defying objections from the US and Israel. The UNHRC is expected to publish the database by the end of this year.

American firms on the list include Caterpillar, TripAdvisor, Priceline and Airbnb, the Washington Post reported.

“[The blacklist] is the latest incarnation of the decades-long Arab boycott, and yet another singling out of Israel by the UN. Because Israel, the Jewish state, alone is singled out, the intent and impact is antisemitic,” Anne Herzberg, a UN expert and the legal advisor for NGO Monitor, told JNS.org.

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Similarly, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, described the list as “an expression of modern antisemitism reminiscent of dark periods in history.”

While the list will have no legal consequences for Israel or the companies involved, its opponents say that it could put pressure on the UN Security Council to take action.

The supporters and drafters of the list drew inspiration from efforts to target international businesses that were involved in apartheid-era South Africa, as well as Arab-led boycotts of Israel. Their goal is to pressure the Jewish state to change its policies regarding the Palestinians and the disputed territories.

But Michal Hatuel-Radoshitzky, a research fellow for Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, said that the list will likely do the opposite, and undermine any chances for a two-state solution.

“First and foremost, this is because such a ‘blacklist’ serves to strengthen the common Israeli perception of a hostile international community [that] is united against the Jewish state,” Hatuel-Radoshitzky told JNS.org.

She added, “This paradigm strengthens the hardliners and works against the moderate camp that perceives the two-state solution — which ultimately necessitates compromises from Israel — as the desired alternative.”

The blacklist also “serves to undermine the credibility of the UNHRC in specific, and to further taint the UN in general,” Hatuel-Radoshitzky said.

Since taking over as UN secretary-general in January, Portugal’s António Guterres has attempted to take a more evenhanded approach to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, after years of disproportionate criticism of Israel at the UN.

“As secretary-general of the United Nations, I consider that the State of Israel needs to be treated as any other state,” Guterres said in an address to the World Jewish Congress in April.

“I have already had the opportunity to show that I’m ready to abide by that principle even when that forces me to take some decisions that create some uncomfortable situations,” he added, referencing a move he made to squash a report by former UN official Rima Khalaf that called Israel an “apartheid state.”

Herzberg said that while it does not appear that Secretary-General Guterres is in favor of the of the blacklist, it might be impossible for him to stop its release.

“Due to the UN bureaucracy and the dominance of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, it would be difficult if not impossible for the secretary-general to halt the process,” she said.

According to Herzberg, such reports are often compiled by a “narrow sector” of political activists and NGOs, many of whom are linked to the BDS movement.

“Many UN officials were formerly employed by these partisan organizations and harbor extreme anti-Israel views,” she said.

The Trump administration recently urged the UN’s human rights commissioner not to publish the blacklist. US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley called the list “shameful,” and “counterproductive” to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

“It is an attempt to provide an international stamp of approval to the antisemitic BDS movement. It must be rejected,” Haley said.

In June, the US indicated that it may replace its membership in the UNHRC with “other means” for addressing human rights issues, unless the UN body significantly reforms its conduct and anti-Israel bias.

At the same time, more than 20 US states have passed legislation in recent years opposing the BDS movement, by requiring state institutions to cease any business with companies that boycott the Jewish state.

Both federal and state measures in the United States against BDS “will be effective in blunting the impact of the blacklist,” Herzberg said, adding that US leadership will be essential in curbing the effectiveness of the UN blacklist.

“Countries and companies will have to decide — do they want to do business in the US, or side with the bigots of the UN, the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation,” she said.

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