The United Nations has sent letters to 150 companies that operate in Judea, Samaria, and the Golan Heights, threatening to add them to the their “blacklist” of firms that enable or benefit from the growth of Israeli settlements. The blacklist relies on intimidation tactics, as the UN would not be able to enforce a boycott of the Israeli companies listed on their blacklist. However, the UN “stamp of approval” is already influencing international companies to avoid direct or indirect transactions with Israeli companies.
In March, the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHCR) voted in favor (32 nations in favor and 15 abstentions) of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Act of 2017, which entails creating a “blacklist” of companies, the full list of which will be published this December. The blacklist includes major American corporations like Airbnb, Caterpillar, Priceline.com, and TripAdvisor as well as Israeli companies such as Coca-Cola Israel, Teva Pharmaceuticals, Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, Bezeq, and Egged.
Out of the 150 companies that received letters, half are Israeli, 30 American, and the rest include countries such as Germany, South Korea, and Norway.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein began sending the letters in early September. According to senior Israeli officials and Western diplomats, as reported by Haaretz, the letters requested responses from the companies detailing their business activities in Israeli settlements.
An anonymous Israeli official noted that the letters stated the companies were doing business in the “Occupied Palestinian Territories” and are thus violating “internal law and UN decisions.”
But the blacklist, even if published, would not be enforceable. The UN Human Rights Council, unlike the UN Security Council, does not have the authority to impose sanctions on companies doing business in Judea Samaria, to limit settlement activity, or to enforce disciplinary measures. Unless the UN Security Council adopts a similar measure, the blacklist is merely intimidation tactics.
Utilizing fear tactics against Israel is not new for the United Nations, as the international body has slapped Israel with over 45 resolutions since 2013, and since its creation, has condemned Israel almost more than rest of the world combined.
Senior Israeli officials report that Israeli companies are concerned of “divestment or scaled down business due to the blacklist.” A number of companies have, since receiving the letter, capitulated to its demands and responded to the human rights commissioner by saying that they will not renew contracts or sign new ones in Israel as a whole.
The officials said, “These companies just can’t make the distinction between Israel and the settlements and are ending their operations altogether. Foreign companies will not invest in something that reeks of political problems – this could snowball.”
In light of the potential economic impact of the blacklist, an Israeli committee comprised of the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Strategic Affairs, Justice and Economy is working to prevent the list’s publication.
Meanwhile, the Trump administration is trying to work with the UNHCR to prevent the list’s publication while the U.S. Congress and Senate have introduced a bipartisan bill, the “Israel Anti-Boycott Act,” that would protect U.S. companies targeted by the international boycotts and punish those who comply with them.
In June, US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, condemned that blacklist and even threatened to withdraw from the UN unless it ends it reforms are made “to reestablish the Council’s legitimacy” and ceases its anti-Israel bias and “hypocrisy.”
But even with American and Israeli efforts, government officials project that publication of the list is inevitable. According to Haaretz, if and when it is published, Israel plans on reaching out with the foreign companies on the list, stressing that the list is “non binding and insignificant,” and is “tantamount to cooperating with a boycott of Israel.”