Israel's Foreign Ministry Wednesday instructed its U.S. consulates to approach governors of states in which firms named in the UN human rights office database of companies that operate in West Bank settlements are based, and to ask them to condemn the list.
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Of the 112 companies named by the UNCHR list, which was released earlier that day, 94 are based in Israel and 18 in six other countries, including the United States. Included on the list are companies such as Airbnb, Expedia, General Mills and Motorola Solutions.
The issue has been highly sensitive as companies appearing in such a database could be targeted for boycotts or divestment aimed at stepping up pressure on Israel over its West Bank settlements, which most countries and the United Nations view as illegal. Goods produced there include fruit, vegetables and wine.
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Bruno Stagno, Deputy Executive Director for Advocacy at Human Rights Watch, said in an official statement that "The long awaited release of the UN settlement business database should put all companies on notice: to do business with illegal settlements is to aid in the commission of war crimes.
"The database marks critical progress in the global effort to ensure businesses end complicity in rights abuse and respect international law. The UN’s top rights body should ensure that the database is regularly updated to assist companies in complying with their international legal obligations,” he added.
"While the settlements as such are regarded as illegal under international law, this report does not provide a legal characterization of the activities in question, or of business enterprises' involvement in them," the office of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said.