UN Human Rights Council Votes to Form 'Blacklist' of Companies Operating in Israeli Settlements

Abbas rejected Kerry's request to soften UN resolution targeting settlements, Palestinian official says.

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A worker carries boxes containing wine bottles for export at Shiloh Wineries, north of the West Bank city of Ramallah November 8, 2015. Few issues have caused more friction between Israel and the European Union than EU plans to impose labeling on goods produced in Jewish settlements on occupied land. And if Israel is right about the timing, the tensions could get worse." Shiloh Wineries, which exports half of the more than 100,000 bottles of wine it produces annually, built its business around its West Bank location of Shiloh - the ancient capital of Israel before Jerusalem.
A worker carries boxes containing wine bottles for export at Shiloh Wineries, north of Ramallah, November 8, 2015.Credit: Reuters

The UN Human Rights Council passed a resolution, initiated by the Palestinians, obligating the organization to draw up a list of all Israeli and international firms operating directly or indirectly in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights.

The resolution was passed on Thursday night in Geneva, despite feverish efforts by the United States and several European countries to get the Palestinians to remove a contentious clause which calls for the compilation of a “black list” of companies. The resolution was supported by 32 countries, while 15 abstained. None opposed it.

On Thursday afternoon U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry telephoned Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in an attempt to block the resolution or at least soften its wording.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, March 24, 2016.Credit: Reuters

A senior Palestinian official in Ramallah told Haaretz that Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh, who met with Abbas in Ramallah on Thursday, also raised this issue. Both were told that the Palestinian leadership had no intention of backing down.

The resolution was advanced with the help of 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 the settlements and to warn companies and businesses against entering into business transactions in the settlements so as not to risk being involved in human rights violations. The resolution also calls on international companies to avoid direct or indirect transactions with the settlements.

Particularly worrisome to Jerusalem is Article 17 of the resolution, in which the UNHRC asks the UN high commissioner for human rights “to produce a database of all business enterprises [both Israeli and international] involved in the activities in the settlements,” that would be updated once a year.

The activities detailed in the resolution are not just settlement construction but even the supply of construction materials or equipment, the supply of monitoring equipment for the separation barrier, the supply of equipment used in home demolitions, supplying security services or equipment to the settlements or supplying financial or banking services that aid the settlements, including loans and home mortgages.

The senior Palestinian official said the Palestinians ascribe great importance to this resolution and the fact that it will produce a UN list of all companies that have direct or indirect connections to the Israeli settlement enterprise. They believe that such a list bearing the UN “stamp of approval” will influence many international companies to cut off their business dealings with the settlements or with Israeli companies that operate in the settlements.

Over the last few weeks, Israeli diplomats have been trying to scuttle the resolution.

The European Union tried, in vain, to persuade the Palestinians to remove Article 17 in return for EU support of the rest of the resolution. The Dutch ambassador, who spoke in the name of all the EU members at the council, said that the settlements are illegal according to international law and reiterated the EU’s opposition to Israel’s settlement policy. But he added that he was disappointed that the resolution included Article 17.

The British ambassador called the decision to compile a list “damaging” and said that the UN should not be busying itself with such issues.

Both the U.K. and the Netherlands abstained.

But Switzerland supported the resolution despite its reservations about Article 17. “Switzerland believes there are better ways to act toward private companies to ensure that they are not involved in violating human rights,” said the Swiss ambassador.

The resolution was one of four condemning Israel regarding the Palestinian issue and a fifth regarding the Golan Heights.

Israel’s Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations in Geneva, Eviatar Manor slammed the resolutions and called the discussions which preceded them “theater of the absurd.” He noted that on Wednesday one resolution was passed on Syria and five minutes were allocated to North Korea. “But on Israel there were five resolutions.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nachshon said that the passage of the resolution containing Article 17 “is further evidence of how this organization has a sick obsession with Israel, while at the same time ignoring the major areas of the world in which human rights are violated, primarily Syria, Libya and North Korea.

“While Islamic terror is raging in the world and hundreds of thousands have been killed in the war in Syria and in terror attacks across the Middle East, the ‘Human Rights Council’ proves once again that it is a cynical and hypocritical body that is detached from reality and irresponsible,” said Nachshon.

During the discussion at the Human Rights Council the Palestinian ambassador, as well as those of Saudi Arabia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates, lashed out at Israel. “The construction in the settlements undermines the regional and international efforts to reach a two-state solution,” said the Saudi ambassador. “The continuation of this Israeli policy endangers the possibility of achieving a two-state solution in the future.”

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