The US is calling on the UN Human Rights Council not to publish a blacklist of international companies doing business with Jewish communities in the West Bank. The US companies on the list include Caterpillar, Airbnb, Priceline.com, and TripAdvisor, "The Washington Post" reported yesterday, citing diplomatic sources.
The dispute is not new. The Human Rights Council voted in early 2016 to establish a database listing all its information about the actions of international companies in the territories, despite opposition by the US and Israel.
UN high commissioner for human rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, a Jordanian diplomat, has now notified US officials that he is planning to publish the information by the end of the year. He told countries in which the companies on the list are registered to submit a response to the Human Rights Council by September 1, according to diplomats quoted in "The Washington Post."
Al Hussein has already postponed the date for publishing the document once this year at the request of US diplomats. He has now announced that he will not agree to another postponement, asserting that the database will be an important resource for consumers and passengers.
US President Donald Trump is now in the same position as his predecessor, Barack Obama, on the blacklist issue. Like Obama, Trump opposes Jewish settlements in the territories, but, also like Obama, he opposes the publication of a database designed to hamper those communities.
Trump has reversed his position on the Jewish settlements. He expressed support for them during the election campaign. In February, however, less than a month after entering the White House, he told "Israel Hayom," "There is so much land left. And every time you take land for settlements, there is less land left… But no, I am not somebody that believes that going forward with these settlements is a good thing for peace."
US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, however, made it clear that the Trump administration still opposes publication of the database. She said, "The United States has been adamantly opposed to this resolution from the start” and has fought against it before several UN bodies… These types of resolutions are counterproductive and do nothing to advance Israeli-Palestinian issues.”
In a speech in Geneva in June, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said that the existence of the database was "shameful," adding that the US would reconsider its membership in the UN Human Rights Council because of its bias against Israel.
A US official said that the US believed that the criteria for including companies in the database were vague and arbitrary.
The Human Rights Council has no authority to impose sanctions on companies allegedly doing business with the Jewish settlements, or to limit their activity. Those opposing publication of the list say, however, that its publication is liable to put pressure on the UN Security Council to adopt a similar measure, and the Security Council does have the authority to enforce punitive measures.
The idea of publishing a list of companies operating in a controversial area originates with the successful international boycott of South Africa in protest against the apartheid regime and the Arab boycott against Israel in previous decades, "The Washington Post" says.
What is supposed to be wrong with the actions of tourist companies such as TripAdvisor, Airbnb, and Priceline.com is not exactly clear - whether it is activity within the settlements or publication of information about the settlements and the supply of tourist services there on the companies' websites. Caterpillar, on the other hand, has been a target of the opponents of settlements for a long time, due to the extensive and documented use of bulldozers and other tools produced by the company in building the settlements.
A TripAdvisor spokesman told "The Washington Post" that no UN agency had contacted the company. "We continue to believe in the power of travel to bring cultures together around the world and are happy to discuss our position with the UN at any time,” he said.
Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon yesterday said, "The UN human rights commissioner… has become the world’s most senior BDS activist.
"This shameful step is an expression of modern antisemitism and reminds us of dark periods in history," Danon stated. He said that the human rights commissioner had made his goal "to harm the State of Israel, instead of doing his job." He called on the UN and the international community "to immediately stop this dangerous move."
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on August 22, 2017
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