UN Reveals 112 Businesses Operating in Illegal West Bank Settlements

UN Reveals 112 Businesses Operating in Illegal West Bank Settlements

The database, released Wednesday after years of delays, listed 112 companies that the United Nations human rights office said are complicit in rights violations by bolstering Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which advocates a wide-ranging embargo of Israel over its treatment of the Palestinians, welcomed the list.

Israel, which routinely accuses the United Nations and especially the Human Rights Council of bias against it was quick to slam Wednesday's publication. The Israeli companies listed include large corporations such as all the major banks, transportation firms Egged and Israel Railways Corporation, and all major telecommunications companies, as well as smaller businesses including popular restaurant chains.

The UN has released a list of 112 companies with activities in Israeli settlements, which are considered illegal under global law, including Airbnb, Expedia and TripAdvisor.

"All countries targeted by the UN Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights, particularly Israel and the United States, should reassess their relationships with Commissioner Bachelet's office, including cancelling all cooperation and the millions of dollars and euros provided to her each year in funding", she advised. "However, after an extensive and meticulous review process we are satisfied this fact-based report reflects the serious consideration that has been given to this unprecedented and highly complex mandate", Michelle Bachelet said in a statement.

The Palestinians seek all of the West Bank and East Jerusalem areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war - for an independent state and the removal of numerous more than 700,000 Israeli settlers from these parts. The settlements are considered illegal under worldwide law.

President Donald Trump, however, has taken a more lenient position, tolerating continued Israeli settlement construction and releasing a Mideast plan last month that envisions giving Israel permanent control over all of its settlements. The plan turns over key parts of the West Bank to Israel, which has angered Palestinians.

"The state of Israel will not accept discriminatory and anti-Israel policies and we will work in every possible way to prevent such decisions from being carried out", he said.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, a pro-Palestinian group leading calls for the use of boycotts to pressure Israel, said the database was "a very significant first concrete step by any United Nations entity towards holding to account Israeli and worldwide corporations".

The rights council, which is made up of 47 governments, had never before requested such a list scrutinizing corporate activities. The report said its authors had communicated directly with the companies to allow them to defend themselves or say whether they had changed their operations in the settlements.

The report was issued on the eve of the U.N. Human Rights Council's main annual session opening in Geneva from Feb 24.

Human Rights Watch, a vocal critic of the settlements, applauded the report.

In an address to the UN Security Council on Tuesday, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas reiterated his rejection of Mr Trump's plan, describing the proposed Palestinian state as looking "like a Swiss cheese".

"The United States has long opposed the creation or release of this database", Pompeo said.

But in a statement, the BDS movement called for action against the companies. Associated Press writer Dee-Ann Durbin in Detroit contributed.

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