Pro-BDS Activists to Launch Campaign Against Companies Operating in West Bank Settlements

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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

Pro-BDS and Palestinian activist groups are to begin an intensive campaign against Israeli and foreign companies that are operating in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, anti-occupation activists told Haaretz on Thursday.

The announcement comes one day after it was revealed that the UN's Human Rights Commissioner has been sending letters to 150 companies in Israel and around the world the past two weeks, warning that they are about to be added to a blacklist of companies doing business in Israeli settlements in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem.

Calling it courageous, the activists applauded the UN's decision, and said that the Palestinians must do what they can to exploit the blacklist.

The Palestinian Authority also expressed satisfaction with the move, saying that a strategy is being formulated to act against these companies both through public pressure to end their West Bank operations and via international law.

The revelation came the same day that Palestine was voted in as an Interpol member country after 75 countries voted in favor of admitting them to the international police organization.

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 added, has already received information that a number of companies who received the letters 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."

According to Labor party leader Avi Gabbay, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has contributed to the problem by touting an approach that refuses to acknowledge a difference between the large West Bank settlement blocs, recognized by international consensus, and stand-alone isolated settlements.

"When Netanyahu blurs the distinction, the entire world blurs the distinction and only increases the chances of international boycotts," Gabbay told a group of Israeli business figures on Thursday.

Gabbay said that the meaning of the UN action for the Israeli economy is "enormous."

"The progress of the political [peace] process is critical for the Israeli economy, so that more foreign companies will want to invest here, that Israeli companies can thrive abroad without threats, and that the Israeli and Palestinian economies will be strong and able to provide their citizens with a good standard of living.

"The economic potential of the end of the conflict is enormous and we must strive there," he told the group of businesspeople from Breaking the Impasse, a group of Israeli and Palestinian business figures working to promote a political process based on a two-state solution.