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February 13, 2020 11:52 am

Israel Takes Fight to UNHRC Following Release of Settlement Blacklist

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avatar by Israel Hayom / JNS.org

The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva. Photo: UN.

JNS.org – Following Wednesday’s release by the United Nations of a blacklist of companies connected to Israeli settlements, Israel’s Foreign Ministry has asked the country’s US consulates to reach out to the governors of states in which targeted companies are headquartered to request that they denounce the UN initiative.

The blacklist, issued by the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights on the order of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC), includes more than 100 companies across the globe, including AirBnb, which is based in Florida, and California-based Expedia.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement in response to the UN move in which he slammed the UNHRC as “unimportant” and vowed to fight back against the initiative.

“In recent years, we have promoted laws in most US states, which determine that strong action is to be taken against whoever tries to boycott Israel. Therefore, this body is unimportant,” said Netanyahu. (Twenty-eight US. states have outlawed BDS activity, and companies operating out of these states are thus not permitted to alter their policies because of the UN report.)

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Moreover, said Netanyahu, the UN organization had little to do with human rights.

“Instead of the organization dealing with human rights, [the UNHRC] only tries to disparage Israel. We strongly reject this contemptible effort,” he said.

Speaking with Israel’s Army Radio, the prime minister also made it clear that he considers the UN government’s position on settlements under President Donald Trump to be more important than the views of UN organizations.

“We will ensure the [administration’s] recognition of our sovereignty over those settlements—that will cancel out the entire impact of the United Nations because the United States is more important than the UN,” said Netanyahu.

“Whoever boycotts us will be boycotted. The UN Human Rights Council is a biased body that is devoid of influence,” he added.

This bias, said Netanyahu, was why he had already ordered that Israel cut its ties with the UN body.

“Not for nothing have I already ordered the severing of ties with [the UNHCR]. It was also not for nothing that the American administration has taken this step together with us,” he said, referring to the Trump administration’s June 2018 decision to leave the council, citing its “chronic bias against Israel.”

Israel has never been a member of the council, which comprises 47 governments, including those of Libya, Venezuela, Eritrea, Nigeria, Angola and Somalia, in addition to Bahrain, Sudan, Qatar, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Among the European countries on the council are Germany, Austria, Spain and Italy. The overwhelming majority of resolutions passed by the council have focused on Israel and its treatment of Palestinians, and Israel is the only country in the world whose policies automatically face scrutiny at every council session.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yisrael Katz called the report a “shameful capitulation” to anti-Israel groups, and in conjunction with Netanyahu’s directive ordered his ministry to freeze relations with the UNHRC, which he accused of serving the BDS movement. Katz said the measure was enacted to protect companies operating in Israel.

Other companies on the blacklist include General Mills, tech and communications giants Motorola Solutions and Altice Europe, infrastructure companies like France’s Egis and Alstom, and British company JC Bamford Excavators. It also includes travel firms Airbnb and Expedia, as stated, along with TripAdvisor, Booking.com and Opodo.

The UNHRC in 2016 instructed the UN’s human rights office to create a database of companies deemed to be linked to or supportive of Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria. An initial list of over 300 companies was narrowed down to 112 firms the UN “has reasonable grounds to conclude have ties with Israeli settlements” and are involved in practices that raise human rights concerns, such as settlement construction, security services, banking and dealing in equipment used to demolish Palestinian property.

In a statement, the human rights office said 94 of these companies were domiciled in Israel—including all major Israeli banks, state-owned transportation companies Egged and Israel Railways Corporation, and telecommunications giants Bezeq, HOT and Cellcom. It also lists medium-size companies such as restaurant chain Café Café and Angel Bakeries.

Of the 18 that are foreign, six are based in the United States, four in the Netherlands, three in the United Kingdom, three in France, and one each in Luxembourg and Thailand.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin responded to the UN move by reading out a list of the Israeli companies mentioned on the list and encouraging Israelis to support them.

“I am proud that these are Israeli businesses, patriots who contribute to Israeli society, to the economy and peace. Although we do not promote private businesses here in this house, when Israeli businesses are under the threat of boycott, we will stand with them,” he said during an event at his official Jerusalem residence.

“Boycotting Israeli companies does not advance the cause of peace and does not build confidence between the sides. We call on our friends around the world to speak out against this shameful initiative which reminds us of dark periods in our history,” he added.

Shai Alon, the head of the Beit El Regional Council in Judea and Samaria and a member of the Yesha Council, said that the United Nations had “published its selection of Jews, just like in the Second World War.”

He added: “It is disgraceful and disgusting, a mark of shame on an organization that is entirely pro-Palestinian, which on one hand turns a blind eye and doesn’t raise a finger when it comes to the genocide in Syria and the murder of women in Saudi Arabia, and on the other harms the fragile fabric of life here in Israel. The first to be hurt by this selection are the Palestinians who earn a living from Jewish businesses here in Judea and Samaria. If the economy in Judea and Samaria falls, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians will go home without paychecks.”

Israeli Economy Minister Eli Cohen said the blacklist could leave “thousands of Palestinians unemployed,” and accused the Geneva-based council of “modern antisemitism.”

Blue and White Party leader Benny Gantz also decried the UN move, calling it “a dark day for human rights.” The UNHCR, said Gantz, “has lost touch with reality.”

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