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UN Human Rights Council establishes database of businesses involved in Israeli settlements

March 24, 2016 at 2:34 pm

The United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) has voted to establish a database of businesses involved in Israeli settlements, despite opposition from the US and European Union member states.

The resolution was adopted in Geneva today by 32 votes to 0, with 15 abstentions. European states currently on the Council, as expected, abstained.

In the lead up to today’s vote, significant pressure was applied on Palestinian officials to remove the paragraph establishing the database of businesses involved in settlement activities. A report in Ha’aretz newspaper this morning said Israel and the US were “making intense diplomatic efforts” to block the resolution.

According to the paper, “Israel over the past several weeks has been trying to scuttle the entire resolution or at the very least get Article 17 [establishing the database] removed. Israeli ambassadors in various capitals around the world were instructed to convey to the highest echelons that Israel was asking them to oppose the resolution.”

An unnamed Palestinian official told The Guardian today that the resolution proceeded unchanged on the orders of Mahmoud Abbas, despite “pressure from US and UK officials”, who reportedly threatened Palestinian officials that a failure to remove the paragraph could affect both “aid to the Palestinian Authority and bilateral ties.”

The establishment of the database is included within a broader resolution on Israel’s illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan. The pertinent section calls for “a database of all business enterprises involved” in illegal settlement activities, which will be updated annually.

The resolution notes that “the settlement enterprise and the impunity associated with its persistence, expansion and related violence continue to be a root cause of many violations of the Palestinians’ human rights, and constitute the main factors perpetuating Israel’s belligerent occupation of the Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, since 1967.”

The resolution goes on to express concern that “some business enterprises have, directly and indirectly, enabled, facilitated and profited from the construction and growth of the Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.”

The UNHRC resolution also notes that “products wholly or partially produced in settlements have been labelled as originating from Israel”, and that “private individuals, associations and charities in third States” are “involved in providing funding to Israeli settlements and settlement-based entities, contributing to the maintenance and expansion of settlements.”

As well as the database, the draft text urges all states to “provide guidance to individuals and businesses on the financial, reputational and legal risks, including the possibility of liability for corporate involvement in gross human rights abuses as well as the abuses of the rights of individuals, of becoming involved in settlement-related activities.”

An unnamed Palestinian official cited in Ha’aretz expressed the hope that such a list will “influence many international companies to cut off their business dealings with the settlements or with Israeli companies that operate in the settlements.”