From Motorola to Ahava: The UN Blacklist of Companies Doing Business in Israeli Settlements

Settlement blacklist of 25 firms published by Israeli paper includes Israel Aerospace Industries, telecom giants, international tech firms, banks, and even cafes

Ma'ale Adumim
Ma'ale Adumimץ Gil Cohen-Magen

An Israeli newspaper has revealed the names of 25 companies who could find themselves on a UN blacklist of firms doing business in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.

The list includes Israel Aerospace Industries, the Israeli branches of Motorola and HP-E, the Dead Sea cosmetics firm Ahava, as well as other firms like Israel's Bank Leumi or gas supplier Paz.

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In the past, Haaretz reported that about 150 companies in Israel and around the world had received letters from the UN human rights commission warning them that they are about to be added to the database, senior Israeli officials and Western diplomats involved in the matter told Haaretz's Barak Ravid at the time.

The Israeli official, who requested to stay anonymous due to the sensitivity of the issue, noted that the letters sent by Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein said these firms were doing business in the "occupied Palestinian territories" and could thus find themselves on the UN blacklist for companies acting in violation of "internal law and UN decisions."

 Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, shakes hand with delegates before the opening of the 36th session of the Human Rights Council, at the European headquarters of the United Nations, UN, in Geneva, Monday, Sept. 11, 2017.
Laurent Gillieron/AP

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The Washington Post reported in August that among American companies that received letters were Caterpillar, Priceline.com, TripAdvisor and Airbnb. According to the same report, the Trump administration is trying to work with the UN Commission on Human Rights to prevent the list's publication.

On Thursday, Yedioth Aharonoth revealed the names of some 25 of these Israeli firms, which it said is based on a partial list the paper obtained. The companies on the list range from bakeries to financial institutions to local energy suppliers and cosmetics:

1. Ahava
2. Dor Alon
3. Amisragas
4. Angel Bakeries
5. Arison Investments
6. Ashdar
7. Cafe Cafe
8. Clal Industries
9. Cellcom
10. Danya Cebus
11. Electra
12. HP Enterprise
13. HOT
14. Israel Aerospace Industries
15. Matrix systems
16. Motorola
17. Nesher
18. Partner
19. Paz
20. Rami Levy
21. Remax
22. Shikun & Binui (Housing & Construction Holding Company)
23. Shufersal
24. Bank Leumi
25. Sonol

Israel's Channel 2 reported in the past that the list includes some of the biggest companies in Israel, such as Teva, Bank Hapoalim, Bezeq, Elbit, Coca-Cola Israel, Africa-Israel, IDB, Egged, Mekorot and Netafim.

A Western diplomat, who also requested to remain anonymous, told Haaretz at the time that out of the 150 companies, some 30 were American and a number are from countries such as Germany, South Korea and Norway. The remaining half are Israeli companies.

Senior Israeli officials said the Israeli fear of divestment or scaled-down business due to the blacklist is already becoming a reality. The Economy Ministry's Office of Strategic Affairs, they said, has already received information that a number of letter-receiving companies have responded to the human rights commissioner by saying they do not intend to renew contracts or sign new ones in Israel.

"These companies just can't make the distinction between Israel and the settlements and are ending their operations all together," the senior Israeli official said. "Foreign companies will not invest in something that reeks of political problems – this could snowball."

As part of an attempt to minimize its potential damage, Israel was attempting to reach out and hold talks with the foreign companies named on the list, stressing that it is non-binding and insignificant. It is also reaching out to foreign governments saying the list is tantamount to cooperating with a boycott of Israel.

U.K. officials said Thursday that the U.K. strongly opposed this provision and considered that it went beyond the competence of the Human Rights Council. "Human rights obligations are directed at states, and not individuals or businesses, who must determine their trading relationships for themselves; as such, we have no plans to set up an equivalent database. Ultimately it is the decision of an individual or company whether to operate in settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The British Government neither encourages nor offers support to such activity," they said.

In March 2017, the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva voted for the resolution being pushed by the Palestinian Authority and Arab nations, according to which the commission would formulate a database of Israeli and international firms directly or indirectly doing business in the West Bank, East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights. The decision passed despite massive pressure by the U.S. to soften the resolution's wording. Even an attempt by the U.K. and the EU to reach a deal with the Palestinians to drop the clause from the resolution stipulating the blacklist's formulation, in return for the support of European nations for the rest of its articles, failed.

Barak Ravid contributed background to this report