UN Human Rights Commissioner: Review of Settlement 'Blacklist' to Be Completed Within Months

Announcement seen in Jerusalem as postponing creation of list of firms working in settlements, while supporters of the list view it as confirmation that work will be completed

The industrial area of the Mishor Adumim settlement in the West Bank, 2014.
Emil Salman

The UN Human Rights Council intends to publish in the coming months its conclusions regarding the creation of a list of companies operating in Israeli settlements, the council's high commissioner said Tuesday. The list, part of Resolution 31/36, is intended to discourage companies from forging business ties with settlements. 

The Palestinians and Arab representatives had requested that the conclusions be during the council's next conference in Geneva.

The council passed a resolution in 2016 obligating the drawing up a list of all firms operating in settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Golan Heights.

A letter signed by High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said that her office "shall continue to devote requisite attention to the matter, with a view to finalizing this mandated activity in coming months, and I look forward to engagement with the Council in that regard."

The Foreign Ministry said after the letter's publication that the council "must shelve all work in the economic sector that threatens to hurt the region's residents. We have noted the commissioner's statement. Our basic position has not changed – the council made its decision on the matter without authority and with an anti-Israel bias."  

Israel has sought to torpedo work on the planned list ever since the decision to create it. The high commissioner's letter is being interpreted in Jerusalem as a postponement of the conclusions' publication, but supporters of the resolution see it as an assurance that the work will be completed.  

On March 24, 2016, the UN Human Rights Council adopted Resolution 31/36, entitled "Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan." The resolution requests that the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights compile a database of Israeli and international companies with links to what the council deems "certain Israeli settlement activity" in those areas.

The resolution was initiated by the Palestinians and was advanced by Egypt, Pakistan and other Arab and Muslim countries. It includes a condemnation of the settlements, stating that they are illegal under international law, and calls on the world’s countries to refrain from providing any assistance of any kind to them. The resolution also warns companies and businesses against entering into business transactions in the settlements so as not to risk being involved in human rights violations.

Business activities specified by the resolution include security services, housing demolition equipment, banking and financial operations, the use of natural resources and others.  

"Business enterprises have, directly and indirectly, enabled, facilitated and profited from the construction and growth of the settlements," the resolution states. "In addition to the previously mentioned violations of Palestinian worker rights, the mission identified a number of business activities and related issues that raise particular human rights violations concerns."

Bruno Stagno Ugarte, Deputy Executive Director of Advocacy for Human Rights Watch, called on the High Commissioner to prioritize the list and commit to a final date for publishing the report. "Israeli authorities’ brazen expansion of illegal settlements underscores why the UN database of businesses facilitating these settlements needs to be published," he wrote. "Each delay further entrenches corporate involvement in the systematic rights abuses stemming from illegal settlements."