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Pompeo rejects UNHRC list of companies operating in occupied Palestine, accuses UN of ‘unrelenting anti-Israel bias’

Pompeo rejects UNHRC list of companies operating in occupied Palestine, accuses UN of ‘unrelenting anti-Israel bias’
The US government will not provide information to the UN for its list of companies operating in occupied Palestinian territories, US State Secretary Mike Pompeo has said, accusing the international body of anti-Israel bias.

The long-delayed document, which names 112 companies operating in the West Bank and Golan Heights, was released by the United Nations Human Rights Council on Wednesday. Business activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory raises human rights concerns, the UNHRC said. The publication was sure to provoke the ire of Israel and its main ally.

“The United States has long opposed the creation or release of this database,” Pompeo said in a statement on Thursday. “Its publication only confirms the unrelenting anti-Israel bias so prevalent at the United Nations... Attempts to isolate Israel run counter to all of our efforts to build conditions conducive to Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that lead to a comprehensive and enduring peace.”

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Washington has not been involved with the UNHRC since June 2018, when the US demonstratively left the body, shortly after its commissioner criticized “forcible separation” of migrant families on the US-Mexico border.

The process of creating the database was quite lengthy – the idea of it was initially floated back in 2017, when the inclusion of over 200 companies was hinted at, though the finished document lists a little over half this number. The report admits that “the database does not cover all business activity related to settlements, and does not extend to wider business activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory that may raise human rights concerns,” going on to say that it also does not cover “non-business enterprises.”

While the office of Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, has apparently tried to downplay the importance of the report – insisting it was not a “blacklist” and was not meant to qualify any of the companies' business activities as illegal – the document still provoked a furious reaction in some quarters.

Pro-Israeli groups in the US were angered by the report, with the StandWithUs lobbying group branding the document an “outrageous and anti-Semitic ‘blacklist’,” adding that “boycotts against Jews” are the tactic of choice for anti-Semites.

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz branded the document a “shameful capitulation” to anti-Israel groups, while PM Benjamin Netanyahu accused the UNHRC of “trying to blacken Israel's name” instead of doing its job of “dealing with human rights.”

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The UNHRC report was hailed by the Palestinian Authority, whose Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki calling it “a victory for international law.” Still, the official urged the UN to not just name the companies but actually take some action against them. He called upon the UN Security Council to “issue recommendations and instructions to these companies to end their work immediately with the settlements.”

The vast majority – 94 out of 112 – of the listed companies are Israeli-based, while 18 others are registered in other countries. The list includes such US companies as Airbnb, Expedia, TripAdvisor, General Mills, Booking Holdings and Motorola. The document also named UK’s JC Bamford Excavators, Opodo, and Greenkote PLC, Dutch firms Kardan NV, Altice Europe NV, Tahal Group International BV and Booking.com, as well as French Alstom and Egis Rail. The list also includes a number of Israeli- based subsidiaries of international businesses.

The UNHRC made every effort to avoid legally defining the activities of the listed companies – apparently to avoid drawing even more ire. Still, it noted that Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are considered illegal by international law, effectively placing any business activity in such places on very shaky legal ground.

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Israel, however, believes the settlement process to be completely legal – and its position has been backed by US President Donald Trump. In one of his latest pro-Israel moves, Trump announced that Washington would no longer consider Israeli settlements to be inconsistent with international law.

The US move was met with overwhelming rejection worldwide, while the UN said that a change in the “policy position of one state does not modify existing international law.”

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