'UN Blacklist Counterproductive to Peace': U.S. Lawmakers Blast Publication of File on 'Settler' Companies

Bipartisan denouncements from Congress pour in after the UN published a list of 112 companies, among them Expedia and Booking.com, which operate in the West Bank

Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon
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A demonstrator holds a Palestinian flag in front of the settlement of Modi'in Illit in the village of Bilin in the West Bank February 7, 2020.
A demonstrator holds a Palestinian flag in front of the settlement of Modi'in Illit in the village of Bilin in the West Bank February 7, 2020.Credit: MOHAMAD TOROKMAN/ REUTERS
Amir Tibon
Amir Tibon

WASHINGTON – Leading Members of the U.S. Congress from both parties denounced the UN Human Rights Council for publishing a database on Wednesday of companies that operate in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The list includes 112 companies, most of them based in Israel. It also includes several companies based in the United States. It’s not clear if the list’s publication will have any impact on those companies, apart from the fact that supporters of the BDS movement could call to boycott them.

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Rep. Eliot Engel, chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, denounced the list’s publication in a statement. He claimed that the list “is wrongheaded and will embolden those who seek to use boycotts as a tool to pressure Israel.” Engel also said that “boycotts will only push a sustainable two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict farther out of reach. The publication of this database does nothing to bring the Israeli and Palestinian people or their leadership closer to peace.”

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet attends a session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, September 9, 2019.Credit: Denis Balibouse/ REUTERS

He also criticized the Trump administration for withdrawing from the Human Rights Council in 2018. According to Engel, “the publication of this list is a good reminder that when the United States withdraws from international bodies, we cede the space to others who do not share our interests.”

Democratic Majority Leader Steny Hoyer also came out against the publication of the UN list. “The UN Human Rights Council’s work has been hijacked by those bent on delegitimizing the Jewish state instead of doing the actual work of supporting justice and human rights around the world,” Hoyer stated.

He added that “no country is perfect, including Israel, but what makes the BDS movement so insidious is that, at its heart, it seeks to undermine the right of Jews to live in a Jewish, democratic state in their ancestral homeland.”

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), who leads the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on the Middle East, called the publication of the list “shameful” and emphasized that there is a ”bipartisan majority” in Congress against BDS. Two weeks ago, Deutch criticized the Trump administration’s Middle East plan, warning that “President Trump cannot proclaim the outcome to direct negotiations, nor can he create borders by fiat.”

Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL) wrote on his Twitter account that “the 'blacklist' of companies operating in the West Bank is the most recent in a long series of discriminatory and shameful actions by the United Nations and its agencies targeting Israel. A one-sided boycott diminishes the prospects of peace for both Israel and the Palestinians.”

Rep. Tom Souzzi (D-NY) echoed these statements, writing that he "strongly disagree with the UN’s decision to publish a list of blacklist companies in the West Bank. Actions such as these are counterproductive to peace and ignore the benefits that these businesses bring to both Palestinians and Israelis.”

On the Republican side, three lawmakers who are members of the Foreign Affairs Committee – Reps. Michael McCaul (R-TX), Joe Wilson (R-SC) and Lee Zeldin (R-NY) – released a joint statement calling the release of the list “abrupt and inappropriate”. They added that “the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will not be solved as long as the UN is used as a forum to bash Israel. The purpose of such a list is clear: It is a how-to guide for international boycotts designed to pressure Israel to make concessions outside of direct negotiations with the Palestinians. The United States cannot allow this list to be operationalized to undermine our ally Israel.”

Senator John Boozman (R-AR) wrote that the Human Rights Council “once again caved to anti-Israel voices who seek to punish Israeli, U.S. and European businesses that are lawfully operating in the West Bank. The UN should be encouraging restart of negotiations, not continuing one-sided bias against Israel.”

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