(Update: Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Thursday he was “outraged” about the database release, saying it “facilitates” the BDS campaign “and delegitimizes Israel.”
“Its publication only confirms the unrelenting anti-Israel bias so prevalent at the United Nations. The United States has not provided, and will never provide, any information to the Office of the High Commissioner to support compilation of these lists and expresses support for U.S. companies referenced.”)
(CNSNews.com) – Senior Republican lawmakers on Wednesday condemned the U.N.’s human rights office for releasing a list of private companies, including American ones, doing business in Israeli “settlements” in disputed territory.
A leading monitor of the world body charged that the U.N. has “become ground zero” for the global boycott, divestment, and sanction (BDS) movement.
The long-delayed release of a report first mandated by the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2016 comes days after President Trump released his Mideast peace plan – and one day after Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas urged the international community to reject it.
The HRC’s call for a “database” of companies doing business with Israelis in areas claimed by the Palestinians, including eastern Jerusalem, was widely seen as designed to expedite the anti-Israel BDS movement, essentially providing a list of targets.
The report released by the office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights – currently helmed by the socialist former president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet – lists 112 companies, most of them Israeli entities, ranging from banks to bakeries to real estate firms.
Also listed are 18 companies in other countries, including Air BnB, Expedia, Booking.com, and Motorola Solutions.
The first three were identified for “provision of services and utilities supporting the maintenance and existence of settlements, including transport.” Motorola Solutions Inc. was listed for “supply of surveillance and identification equipment for settlements, the wall and checkpoints directly linked with settlements.”
An Air BnB spokesman said the company would not be commenting. Queries sent to the other three brought no response by press time.
The report will be presented to the HRC when it holds its next regular session, beginning on February 24.
“I am conscious this issue has been, and will continue to be, highly contentious,” said Bachelet. “However, after an extensive and meticulous review process, we are satisfied this fact-based report reflects the serious consideration that has been given to this unprecedented and highly complex [HRC] mandate.”
Bachelet said that although settlements “are regarded as illegal under international law” – something the Trump administration disputes – “this report does not provide a legal characterization of the activities in question, or of business enterprises’ involvement in them.”
Nonetheless Hanan Ashrawi, a member of the Palestine Liberation Organization executive committee and vocal critic of Israel, made clear the Palestinian leadership sees the report in a legal light.
She said listed the companies “are legally obliged to cease their illegal activities” immediately, and added that the relevant countries “also have a legal obligation to act against these companies until they are brought into compliance.”
The Geneva-based non-governmental body U.N. Watch recalled which countries were responsible for 2016 HRC resolution mandating the database – Kuwait on behalf of the Arab states, Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), along with other autocracies including Sudan, Cuba, Libya, Egypt, and the Maduro regime in Venezuela.
“Dictatorships initiated this blacklist not because they care about human rights, but to divert attention from serial rights abuses committed by council members like Venezuela, Libya, and DR Congo, by scapegoating the Jewish state,” said the group’s executive director, Hillel Neuer.
(The resolution passed in the 47-member HRC by a 32-0 vote, with 15 mostly European countries abstaining. The U.S., not a member at the time, criticized the move, saying it fell “far outside” the scope of the HRC’s authority.)
Neuer noted that the U.N. has no comparable list identifying companies doing business in disputed territories elsewhere.
“Curiously, out of more than 100 territorial disputes in the world today, including in Tibet, Kashmir, Crimea, Western Sahara and Northern Cyprus, the U.N. chose only to blacklist companies doing business in Israel's disputed territories,” Neuer said.
By singling out Israel in this way, “the U.N. has now become ground zero for global BDS.”
‘A how-to guide for international boycotts’
In Washington, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Sen. James Risch (R-Idaho) called the release of the report a “political move” by Bachelet.
It was further evidence that her office “is overly politicized and focusing a disproportionate amount of time and resources on Israel,” he said, adding that it should be focusing instead “on the real human rights crises in the world such as the ongoing slaughter of civilians in Syria.”
The ranking Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee Michael McCaul (R-Texas), joined by ranking members on its subcommittees on the Middle East and Oversight, Reps. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) and Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.), said the purpose of the U.N. list was clear.
“It is a how-to guide for international boycotts designed to pressure Israel to make concessions outside of direct negotiations with the Palestinians,” they said.
The lawmakers called on the House to pass the Israel Anti-Boycott Act, a measure updating existing U.S. anti-boycott laws to include boycotts fostered by international organizations.
It was introduced by Zeldin last month and is cosponsored by 58 Republicans and one Democrat, Rep. Thomas Suozzi of New York.
PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat said the report’s release enhanced the “credibility” of the HRC and international organizations in the face of “the intense pressure that the Trump administration places on these institutions.”
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the “contemptible” move underlined the correctness of Israel’s decision to stop cooperating with the HRC, and of the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from it.