(CNSNews.com) – The United Nations’ top human rights division is beginning to compile an unprecedented blacklist of private companies doing business in territories disputed between Israel and the Palestinians, a move likely to benefit the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign.
Last March the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) passed a resolution calling for the office of U.N. Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein to compile a database of companies whose business activities are deemed to be supporting Jewish communities in the disputed territories – or in U.N. terminology, “illegal settlements” in the “occupied Palestinian territories.”
Those territories include large parts of Jerusalem where Israeli sovereignty is contested.
Zeid’s office has now begun to invite “all interested persons, entities and organizations” to submit information to enable it to compile the list.
“The identity of sources of information will be kept confidential,” it said in a notice requesting that concise and pertinent submissions be emailed by November 30.
The United States and British governments have already indicated they will not cooperate in the endeavor, which they view as inappropriate.
Britain’s representative said as much immediately after the resolution was adopted last March. It passed by a 32-0 vote, with Britain and 14 other mostly European countries abstaining. Support came from Islamic countries and their allies including Russia, China, Cuba, Vietnam and Venezuela.
The U.S. is not a member of the Geneva-based HRC this year and so did not have a vote, but State Department spokesman John Kirby made clear the administration’s stance during a press briefing several days later.
While he reiterated the administration’s strong opposition to “Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories,” Kirby said the creation of the database was “an unprecedented step” and one that was “far outside” the scope of the HRC’s authority.
He agreed that it was a “logical conclusion” that the U.S. will not contribute information to the database.
In the crosshairs of the U.N.’s top human rights body are businesses which an earlier HRC fact-finding mission said have “directly and indirectly, enabled, facilitated and profited from the construction and growth of the settlements.”
Some 400,000 Israelis live in towns and villages in the West Bank (Judea-Samaria), with communities ranging in size from a hundred to almost 50,000-strong. Around 200,000 more Israelis live in eastern parts of Jerusalem.
The Palestinians, with broad international support, want those areas for a future independent state.
The future of the settlements in the West Bank is meant to be subject to negotiation under the Oslo peace accords. For more than two decades Israeli governments across the political spectrum have maintained that even if a Palestinian state becomes a reality, land swaps would have to be agreed to ensure that at least some blocs of major communities remain where they are.
The international community at large, including the U.S. government, contends that settlement activity is complicating efforts to achieve a “two-state solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
When the HRC voted for the resolution calling for a blacklist of businesses operating in those areas, the so-called BDS movement hailed the “landmark decision.”
“Finally, after years of toothless U.N. condemnations of settlements – which are a flagrant violation of international law and a major obstacle to justice and peace in the region - there will be an official U.N. list that names and exposes businesses that have for decades enabled and profited from Israel’s theft of Palestinian land and other human rights abuses,” said Ingrid Jaradat, a legal analyst and one of the founders of the BDS movement.
She said companies to be targeted for inclusion on the blacklist were not just those based or operating inside settlements, “but basically all companies doing business with the state of Israel or private Israeli actors operating in occupied Palestinian land, including East Jerusalem.”
Condemning the move, the Anti-Defamation League said the blacklist would “undoubtedly become an important resource for BDS activists seeking to attack Israel.”
Criticism also came from Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) president Morton Klein, who said the initiative went beyond the HRC’s “usual fabrications” and was “an out-an-out declaration of economic warfare against the Jewish state.”
In response to the vote, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called the HRC “an anti-Israel circus.”
Over its decade-long existence, the council has condemned Israel in more resolutions than the rest of the world’s nations put together. It is also the only situation in the world to be the subject of a permanent agenda item at the HRC.