UN releases database of companies supporting illegal Israeli settlements

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A Palestinian grape juice bottling plant – Israel has imposed a ban on the export of many Palestinian agricultural products

THE Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO) has welcomed this week’s release of the United Nations database of companies involved in supporting Israeli settlements.

‘We welcome the release of the UN database of companies involved in Israeli settlements, and thank the UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet for fulfilling the mandate given by the UN Human Rights Council in 2016 to prepare and release this database,’ responded the PLO’s secretary general Saeb Erekat, in a press statement.

‘This announcement enhances and consolidates the credibility of the Human Rights Council and international organisations in the face of the fierce attack and the intense pressure that the Trump administration places on these institutions to impede the implementation of its legal and humanitarian mandate entrusted to it by the international community,’ Erekat continued.

‘While this list does not include all the companies profiting from Israel’s illegal colonial-settlement enterprise in occupied Palestine, it’s a crucial first step to restore hope in multilateralism and international law,’ he added.

Erekat, who called upon all companies ‘to end their complicity in the denial of our inalienable right to self-determination,’ then emphsised: ‘It is our firm belief that accountability and justice are essential requirements for peace.

‘This database is the first concrete step towards holding Israel accountable for its illegal colonial-settlement enterprise in over half a century.

‘It should serve as a reminder to the international community on the importance of strengthening the tools to implement international law at a time when the illegality of Israeli settlements is being challenged by those calling for the perpetuation of Israel’s control over the land, natural resources and the people of Palestine.’

Foreign Minister Riyad Malki also welcomed the issuance of the long-awaited UN report on business enterprises involved in the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory.

And ‘the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, specifically issued … the database of companies operating in the illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian state in implementation of the mandate entrusted to the Commissioner and in implementation of the relevant Human Rights Council resolution,’ continued Malki.

He added that the implementation of the High Commissioner Bachelet’s mandate ‘is a reinforcement of the multilateral world order based on international law in the face of attempts to undermine this order’.

So publishing this list of companies and enterprises operating in the settlements is ‘a victory for international law and diplomatic effort in order to dry up the resources of the colonial system represented in the illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory,’ he continued.

He emphasised too that ‘world justice will enhance the rights of the Palestinian people, contribute to their steadfastness on their land, and protect their potentials and natural resources exploited by Israel, the illegal occupation authority’.

He then called on the member states of the United Nations and the Human Rights Council ‘to review and study this database and to advise, instruct and direct these companies to immediately end their work with the settlements since this work is considered a violation of international law and its codes’.

The report also came in response to a specific request by the UN Human Rights Council, contained in a March 2016 resolution, that mandated the Office to produce a database of the business enterprises involved in such activities against Palestine.

In an interim report presented to the Human Rights Council in March 2018 by the then High Commissioner, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN Human Rights Office noted it had reviewed information that was publicly available, or had been received from a variety of sources, about an initial 307 such ‘enterprises’.

‘After further research, the total number reviewed increased to 321. Of these, a total of 206 companies were considered for further assessment,’ said the press release.

‘The report sets out conclusions following further communications with business entities, as well as a thorough review and assessment of all information available. It identifies 112 business entities which the UN Human Rights Office, on the basis of the information it has gathered, has reasonable grounds to conclude have been involved in one or more of the specific activities referenced in Human Rights Council resolution 31/36.

‘Of the 112 business entities identified in the report, 94 are domiciled in Israel and 18 in six other States. During the complex process of drawing up the database, the Office consulted the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights, and held widespread discussions with numerous States, civil society organisations, think tanks, academics and others, as well as having extensive interactions with the companies themselves, according to the press release.’

The report makes clear too that ‘the reference to these business entities is not, and does not purport to be, a judicial or quasi-judicial process. While the settlements as such are regarded as illegal under international law, this report does not provide a legal characterisation of the activities in question, or of business enterprises’ involvement in them.

‘Any further steps with respect to the continuation of this mandate will be a matter for the Member States of the Human Rights Council, which will consider the report during the Council’s next session, beginning on 24 February.’

‘ “I am conscious this issue has been and will continue to be, highly contentious,’’ insisted Michelle Bachelet, the current High Commissioner for Human Rights.

‘ “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,’’ Bachelet added.

‘Human Rights Council resolution 31/36, adopted on 24 March 2016, requested the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to produce a report to follow up on the 2013 report of the Independent International Fact-Finding Mission to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.

‘The resolution defined the parameters of the current report by reference to ten specific activities listed in Paragraph 96 of the Fact-Finding Mission’s report. Human Rights Council resolution 31/36 was adopted with 32 States in favour, none against and 15 abstentions.

‘It recalls reports of the UN Secretary-General, resolutions of the UN General Assembly and Security Council, an advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice and the opinions of several human rights bodies reaffirming the illegality of the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including in East Jerusalem.’

Meanwhile, the head of the International Quartet in Palestine, John Clark, affirmed … that his office is going to intervene regarding the Israeli decision to ban Palestinian exports of agricultural products and to take the necessary steps in cooperation with international partners in relation to the Israeli decision.

‘This came during his meeting with Minister of Economy Khaled Osaili at the ministry’s headquarters in Ramallah to discuss the implications of the Israeli decision and its turning back truckloads of agricultural products consisting of olive oil, dates and medicinal herbs intended for export to the United States, Sweden, Turkey and others countries.

‘Osaili briefed Clark on the ramifications of the Israeli decision and the Palestinian government’s response to it by stopping the import of Israeli vegetables, fruits, juices, mineral water and carbonated drinks into the Palestinian markets.

‘The two sides also discussed the current economic situation in Palestine and the Israeli policies and measures related to import and export, pointing to the importance of international assistance for improving the Palestinian economy.’

‘Meanwhile, the head of the International Quartet in Palestine, John Clark, has affirmed that his office is going to intervene regarding the Israeli decision to ban Palestinian exports of agricultural products and to take the necessary steps in cooperation with international partners in relation to the Israeli decision.

‘This came during his meeting with Minister of Economy Khaled Osaili at the ministry’s headquarters in Ramallah to discuss the implications of the Israeli decision, and its turning back truckloads of agricultural products consisting of olive oil, dates and medicinal herbs intended for export to the United States, Sweden, Turkey and other countries.

‘Osaili briefed Clark on the ramifications of the Israeli decision and the Palestinian government’s response to it by stopping the import of Israeli vegetables, fruits, juices, mineral water and carbonated drinks into the Palestinian markets.

‘The two sides also discussed the current economic situation in Palestine and the Israeli policies and measures related to import and export, pointing to the importance of international assistance for improving the Palestinian economy.