State Dep’t Says UN's Anti-Israel ‘Settlement’ Blacklist Does Not Facilitate Peace

By Patrick Goodenough | August 25, 2017 | 4:18am EDT
Ma’ale Adumim, an Israeli town of almost 40,000 just east of Jerusalem, is considered a “settlement” because it is located in disputed territory. (Photo: Ma’ale Adumim municipality)

( – The Trump administration considers a U.N. blacklist of private companies doing business in territories disputed between Israel and the Palestinians “counterproductive” and unhelpful in advancing peace efforts between the two, State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Thursday.

The U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) mandated in a March 2016 resolution that a first-ever “database” be compiled of companies of any nationality that do business in Israeli “settlements” located in areas claimed by the Palestinians, including parts of Jerusalem.

Israel decried the move, which is likely to facilitate the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign by identifying companies which will then be targeted by pro-Palestinian activists. The resolution requires the list to be updated every year.

Last November, the office of the U.N. human rights commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein formally invited “all interested persons, entities and organizations” to submit information to enable it to compile the list.

A month later the U.N. General Assembly authorized a budget of $102,400 to pay for the individual tasked to put together the list over a period of eight months, and another $36,300 for “documentation.”

The U.S. was not a member of the HRC in 2016 and so did not have a vote when the 47-member council passed the original resolution (by a 32-0 vote, with 15 mostly European countries abstaining.)  But the Obama administration criticized it at the time, calling it “an unprecedented step” that was “far outside” the scope of the HRC’s authority.

This week the Washington Post reported that the Trump administration was pressuring the HRC not to publish the list.

Asked at a press briefing Thursday why the administration would apply such pressure, Nauert replied, “we take issue with the list itself, and we’ve been very clear about that.”

“The United States is adamantly opposed to this so-called blacklist and this resolution. We have been from the very beginning.”

“We consider these types of resolutions to be counterproductive, and they really do nothing to advance peace between the Israelis and Palestinians,” she added.

A Palestinian reporter pointed out that the aim of the list was “to show the companies that are doing business with settlements that you and the rest of the world consider to be illegal.”

“Look, I think overall we just view that type of black list as counterproductive,” Nauert said. “Does that help facilitate peace? I don’t think so.”

Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley has taken the lead in the administration’s pushback against what she calls “chronic anti-Israel bias” at the U.N. – and particularly at the HRC in Geneva, where Israel is the only country in the world subject to a permanent agenda item and so condemned at every council session.

In a speech in Geneva last June, she described the database initiative as an effort “designed to shame companies for doing business in Israeli controlled areas.”

“Blacklisting companies without even looking at their employment practices or their contributions to local empowerment, but rather based entirely on their location in areas of conflict is contrary to the laws of international trade and to any reasonable definition of human rights,” Haley said.

“It is an attempt to provide an international stamp of approval to the anti-Semitic BDS movement. It must be rejected.”

This week’s claims that the U.S. and Israeli governments are opposing the HRC initiative brought a stinging response from Palestinian leaders.

PLO executive committee member Hanan Ashrawi called the effort “morally repugnant” and “a clear indication of Israel’s persistent impunity and sense of entitlement and privilege.”

Charging that Israeli settlement policies constituted a “war crime,” Ashrawi said that any company choosing to do business in those areas “becomes complicit in the crime and therefore liable to judicial accountability.”

Around 400,000 Israelis live in towns and villages in the West Bank (Judea-Samaria) and some 200,000 in eastern parts of Jerusalem, both areas claimed by the Palestinians for a future independent state.

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