Last Wednesday, the UN Human Rights Council’s human rights office released a list of more than 100 international companies operating in Israeli settlements over the Green Line, claiming that those listed are complicit in Israeli human rights violations. Most of the companies on the list are owned by Jewish Israelis, but a few are international companies such as Motorola, General Mills, Airbnb, Trip Advisor and Expedia.
The issuance of the list is seen as a victory for the BDS movement, which has long lobbied for it as a way of discouraging commercial interaction with the settlements. In 2016, it prevailed upon the Human Rights Council to instruct the human rights office to create a “database” of companies linked to or supportive of the settlements. There were several delays since then which culminated in the release of the list last week.
Given the Human Rights Rights Council’s recurrent anti-Israel bias, the delays seemed rather strange. One would have expected that they would jump at any opportunity to apply pressure on Israel. We suspect, though, that the delays reflected uncertainty as to where the Trump administration was heading with its much anticipated peace plan and not to act precipitously. Indeed, many now believe that the plan’s tectonic tilt toward legitimizing Israeli sovereignty over the settlement locations prompted the Human Rights Council’s action as a countermeasure. Perhaps significantly, the publication of the list came a day after the Palestinian Authority president, Mahmoud Abbas, denounced the Trump administration’s Middle East Plan in an address at the UN.
At all events, what is still strange is that while the settlements are accused by the Council as violations of international law, the listed companies are not accused of being in violation, even though that would seem to have been the logical step. What seems to be the goal is the discouragement of any ties with the settlements without triggering a backlash. Indeed, a complicating factor in all of this is that many of the listed companies produce products that are key to the well-being of many Palestinians – and, of course, they provide jobs for countless Palestinians.
This sort of thing cannot be let unaddressed. It can get a life of its own despite some inherent complications. We would hope that the Trump administration and the Congress will now move to strengthen our anti-boycott laws.