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Israel cuts ties with UN rights chief after blacklist targets firms linked to illegal settlements Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Israel cuts ties with UN rights chief after blacklist targets firms linked to illegal settlements

All Israeli settlements are considered illegal under international law. [Getty]

Date of publication: 13 February, 2020

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The list, published on Wednesday, escalated a looming showdown between Israel and the international community over its more than half-century policy of building settlements in the West Bank.
Israel has suspended ties with the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights after the UN body published a list of 112 companies that it said are complicit in violating Palestinian human rights by operating in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The list, published on Wednesday, escalated a looming showdown between Israel and the international community over its more than half-century policy of building settlements in the West Bank.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said he ordered the "exceptional and harsh measure" of cutting ties with the commissioner's office after accusing the UN rights body of "serving the BDS campaign," Israeli media reported. He vowed to protect the companies listed in the report.

The Human Rights Council began with a potential list of over 300 companies and narrowed it down to 112 firms involved in practices that raised human rights concerns, such as settlement construction, security services, banking and equipment that was used to demolish Palestinian property.

The list included well known global companies, among them Airbnb, Motorola and General Mills.

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Israel reacted furiously to the report, with prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinting at retaliation.

"Whoever boycotts us will be boycotted," a statement from his office quoted him as saying. "We strongly reject this contemptible effort."

Foreign Minister Israel Katz labelled the move "a shameful surrender to pressure from countries and organisations who want to harm Israel".

Palestinian officials, meanwhile, praised the list's publication.

PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki hailed it as a "victory for international law and for the diplomatic effort to dry up the sources of the colonial system represented by illegal settlement in the occupied Palestinian territory".

In a reflection of how entrenched the settlements have become, the list is dominated by Israeli companies, including leading banks, construction companies, supermarkets and mobile phone operators.

But there also were international companies, including travel firms like Airbnb, Expedia, TripAdvisor, Booking.com and Opodo. Many offer vacation rentals in the settlements.

Other names include consumer food maker General Mills, tech and communications giants Motorola Solutions and Altice Europe, and infrastructure companies like France's Egis and Alstom, and British company JC Bamford Excavators.

Emboldened by Trump's initiative, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to annex Israel's more than 100 settlements, while the chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court in The Hague has indicated she will soon launch a war-crimes investigation into settlement policies.

Nearly 500,000 Israeli settlers live in the occupied West Bank, in addition to more than 200,000 in East Jerusalem.

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