British Jewish leaders have criticised the United Nations for publishing a long-awaited “blacklist” of companies operating in West Bank settlements as a “sham”.
It follows the release of a list of 112 companies by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) on Wednesday, four years after the UN Human Rights Council first voted for such a list to be published.
Three of the companies are UK registered. These are construction equipment manufacturer JCB, metal coatings firm Greenkote, and online travel agency Opodo.
Israel has long accused the UNHRC of bias, highlighting the council’s permanent Agenda Item 7 about Israel that is discussed at every meeting, and Board of Deputies’ president Marie van der Zyl made the same point this week.
“This ‘blacklist’… is the latest example of clear and unacceptable prejudice by the UN,” she said. “There are more than 100 territorial disputes around the world, including in Kashmir, Crimea, Tibet, Northern Cyprus and Western Sahara, but once again the UN has chosen to take this measure only against Israel.”
She added that the UK had “rightly called time on this kind of bias at the UN before,” adding: “We urge the Government to call out this measure for the sham that it is and press the UN to attempt to rescue its increasingly shaky credibility by retracting this ill-conceived measure.”
The list includes companies and corporations doing business in West Bank settlements, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, of which 94 are Israeli, including the country’s biggest banks, retailers and mobile phone operators.
The 2016 UNHRC resolution called for a list of companies undertaking “activities that raised particular human rights concerns” in the Palestinian territories such as providing material and services that would support the expansion of, or help “maintain,” Israeli settlements.
At the time, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al-Hussein said: “We hope that our work in consolidating and communicating the information in the database will assist States and businesses in complying with their obligations and responsibilities under international law.”
It contributed to Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw the US from the UNHRC In 2018, citing a “cesspool of political bias”. Israel was never a member. In March 2019 the UK said it would vote against all resolutions proposed under Item 7 until discussion of Israel stopped being an automatic agenda item.