by: Kate Norman
Friday, 14 February 2020 | The United Nations published a list on Wednesday of over 100 companies operating in the biblical heartland of Judea and Samaria, creating a lightning rod for strong reactions on both sides of the Israel–Palestinian conflict and prompting the Jewish state to cut ties with the UN official behind the move.
Reviled as an anti-Israel “blacklist” to be used as a weapon for the Boycott, Divest, Sanctions (BDS) movement, the list was published unexpectedly this week by the UN Human Rights council after years in the making and years of opposition from Israel and other nations.
The list called out 112 companies—94 operating in Judea and Samaria and 18 internationally. Most of the companies are Israeli, such as public transportation company Egged, telecommunications giant Cellcom, restaurant chain Café Café and most of Israel’s national banks, but many international giants like Motorola, Expedia, Airbnb and General Mills were implicated as well.
Hours after the release of the blacklist, Israel’s Foreign Ministry announced it would suspend ties with the high commissioner in charge of the Human Rights council, Michelle Bachelet.
There doesn’t seem to be any actual legal ramifications, however, to companies included in the blacklist. In fact, as several Israeli officials pointed out, the BDS movement in general often hurts the very people it claims to want to help: the Palestinians.
“The only achievement of the publication of the blacklist is that it will hurt the livelihoods of thousands of Palestinians who coexist and cooperate with Israelis on a daily basis in Judea and Samaria,” argued an infuriated Israel Katz, the Jewish state’s minister of Foreign Affairs.
Katz called the document a “stain on the office of the UN Commissioner and on human rights itself” in a statement.
“The State of Israel will not tolerate this discriminatory anti-Israel policy, and will take action to prevent the implementation of these kinds of decisions,” the foreign minister warned.
High Commissioner Bachelet, no doubt anticipating such an inflammatory response, in a statement accompanying the release of the list, essentially said “Too bad.”
“I am conscious this issue has been, and will continue to be, highly contentious,” the high commissioner for the UN Human Rights council said in a statement released by her office. “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 mandate, and that it responds appropriately to the Human Rights Council’s request contained in resolution 31/36.”
Resolution 31/36 references a resolution passed by the council in 2016 requesting an investigation into the effect of the Israeli communities in the biblical heartland on the Palestinian people.
Last year the US abruptly left the Human Rights council under the leadership of then-US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who called it a “cesspool of political bias” with a “chronic bias against Israel.”
That decision by the US, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu noted, makes the international council “unimportant.”
“Whoever boycotts us will be boycotted,” the prime minister said in a statement released by his office.
“Instead of the organization dealing with human rights, it only tries to disparage Israel,” he added. “We strongly reject this contemptible effort.”
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin listed several of the businesses included on his Twitter page, using the blacklist almost as a badge of honor.
“I am proud to give these businesses a platform,” he wrote. “Proud to be an Israeli. I am proud that these are Israeli businesses, patriots who contribute to Israeli society, to economy and to peace.”
His purpose was not to promote the private businesses, the president noted, but to stand with them in solidary against boycotting.
“Boycotting Israeli companies does not advance the cause of peace and does not build confidence between the sides,” Rivlin added.
The publication was denounced as “outrageous” and proof of the “unrelenting anti-Israel bias so prevalent at the UN” by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Twitter.
“The U.S. has not and will never provide any information to support the compilation of these lists,” he added. “We call on UN member states to join us in rejecting this effort. Attempts to isolate Israel damage momentum toward Israeli–Palestinian negotiations.”
Nonetheless, the blacklist was eagerly welcomed by the Palestinian Authority (PA) foreign minister, who called it a “victory for international law” and urged UN member states to weaponize the blacklist to shoo the companies listed out of the territory.
That will very likely hurt the thousands of Palestinians who work for Israeli companies, however, as watchdog group Palestinian Media Watch (PMW) pointed out. Palestinians who work for Israeli companies receive higher salaries and better benefits than they would working for Palestinian employers, PMW argued in a report.
Palestinians who work in Israel and Israeli-controlled areas receive daily wages of US $68.10 as opposed to $28.87 in Palestinian-controlled areas in Judea and Samaria and $16.44 in the Gaza Strip, PMW reported, citing the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics.
“The United Nations move is far from encouraging coexistence between the parties and will only make the Palestinian population worse off,” Israel’s economy minister said, as quoted by Israel National News. “It is a disgraceful step of modern anti-Semitism that once again proves that the UN Commission on Human Rights is a political organization and not a human rights organization.”
Posted on February 14, 2020
Source: (Bridges for Peace, February 14, 2020)
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