The United States and Israel are fighting the publication of a United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) blacklist naming an estimated 150 companies—both Israeli and global—for doing business in the West Bank, which the UN considers to be “occupied territory,” the Associated Press reported Sunday.
The UNHRC, whose standard for membership includes a member state’s “contribution to the promotion and protection of human rights,” includes states such as Cuba, Venezuela and Saudi Arabia among its members, and has a record of singling out Israel. This year alone it introduced twenty resolutions focused on Israel and only 6 for all the other nations of the world combined.
Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, told the AP, “We will do everything we can to ensure that this list does not see the light of day.”
Though the names of most of the companies on the blacklist are not known, UNHRC has sent letters warning the companies of their presence on the list.
In one case, Stella Handler, the CEO of Israel’s telecommunications giant Bezeq, published the letter she received on her Facebook account and wrote that she would not respond to the UNHRC, “From our point of view, UN HRC Resolution 31/36 is a biased attempt to attack Israel by applying illegitimate pressure on businesses that operate legally,” Handler wrote. “We won’t cooperate with any move that is entirely anti-Israel propaganda,” she added, noting that “North Korea, Syria, Sudan, and Yemen are not addressed by” the UNHRC.
Handler later removed the UNHRC letter at the request of Israeli government.
“Israel is the only country that faces an examination of its rights record at each of the council’s three sessions each year,” the AP noted. “Some 70 resolutions, or about quarter of the council’s country-specific resolutions, have been aimed at Israel. That is nearly triple the number for the second-place country: Syria, where hundreds of thousands have been killed in a devastating six-year civil war.”
The United States is backing Israel’s efforts to fight the publication of the blacklist. The U.S. has demanded that the UN reform and, in October withdrew from the UN’s cultural agency, UNESCO, for its persistent anti-Israel bias. The U.S. ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley blasted the UNHRC for its inclusion of dictatorships, demanded that it stop singling out Israel for condemnation, and hinted that the U.S. could quit the council.
The blacklist appears to be the first step to a complete boycott of Israeli companies as Danon characterized the intent of the blacklist as targeting Jewish companies and companies that do business with the Jewish state.
Publishing the blacklist, Danon asserted, would turn the UNHRC into “the world’s biggest promoter of BDS,” referring to the anti-Semitic Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign that singles out Israel for isolation.
Northwestern University Law School professor, Eugene Kontorovich, an expert on international law, argued before the UNHRC in June that at least 44 companies around the world do business in other occupied territories with no legal consequences. A blacklist that would single out Israeli companies for operation in the West Bank would be “absolutely unprecedented,” Kontorovich charged, adding that “the activity the Council treats as criminal when Israel is involved is regarded as unremarkable anywhere else.”
Kontorovich, also the director of international law at the Kohelet Policy Forum, a Jerusalem think tank, told the AP, that Israel should discredit the blacklist as the intent of of the blacklist is to put “a cloud over business in Israel” and “cause problems for Israel.”
[Photo: martin_vmorris / Flickr]