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UN releases database of firms operating in illegal Israeli settlements

The UN human rights office on Wednesday released a list of more than 100 companies it said are complicit in violating Palestinian human rights by operating in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The UN step is considered the first-ever international attempt to name and shame businesses that have ties with Israel’s illegal settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, released a statement along with the report, saying she was “conscious this issue has been and will continue to be highly contentious.”

“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,” she added.

In 2016, the UN Human Rights Council adopted resolution 31/36, requesting the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to produce a report investigating the “implications of settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including east Jerusalem.”

Due to Israeli and US pressure, the publication of the report was delayed for years to the disdain of human rights groups around the world.

The release of the report on Wednesday was swiftly criticized by Israel and its supporters. Israeli foreign minister Israel Katz called it a “stain” on the OHCHR, and threatened to take action against the council by Israel.

The report names 112 business entities the office says it has reasonable grounds to conclude have been involved in different activities related to illegal settlements.

They include Airbnb,, Expedia Group and Motorola Solutions.

However, the report does not call for sanctions or have any concrete impact on the companies.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), a vocal critic of Israel’s settlement activity, applauded the report.

“The long-awaited release of the UN settlement business database should put all companies on notice: To do business with illegal settlements is to aid in the commission of war crimes,” Bruno Stagno, HRW’s deputy executive director for advocacy, said.

The list contains names of 94 Israeli and 18 international companies — that have ties to illegal settlements, and are involved in one or more of the following 10 activities as stated by the OHCHR:

• The supply of equipment and materials facilitating the construction and the expansion of settlements and the wall, and associated infrastructures;
• The supply of surveillance and identification equipment for settlements, the wall and checkpoints directly linked with settlements;
• The supply of equipment for the demolition of housing and property, the destruction of agricultural farms, greenhouses, olive groves and crops;
• The supply of security services, equipment and materials to enterprises operating in settlements;
• The provision of services and utilities supporting the maintenance and existence of settlements, including transport;
• Banking and financial operations helping to develop, expand or maintain settlements and their activities, including loans for housing and the development of businesses;
• The use of natural resources, in particular water and land, for business purposes;
• Pollution, and the dumping of waste in or its transfer to Palestinian villages;
• Captivity of the Palestinian financial and economic markets, as well as practices that disadvantage Palestinian enterprises, including through restrictions on movement, administrative and legal constraints;
• Use of benefits and reinvestments of enterprises owned totally or partially by settlers for developing, expanding and maintaining the settlements.