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UN delays publication of report on firms linked to Israeli settlements

March 6, 2019 4:06 P.M. (Updated: March 8, 2019 2:26 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights delayed the publication of the report and database of firms linked to Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, causing outrage among activists who have campaigned for three years.

According to Reuters news outlet, the issue is highly sensitive as firms appearing in such a database could be targeted for boycotts or divestment aimed at pressuring Israel over its illegal settlements in the West Bank, which 196 governments and the United Nations recognize as illegal.

Goods produced in Israeli settlements include fruits, vegetables, and wine.

Israel has criticized the database, whose creation was agreed by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2016, as a "blacklist."

Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said that despite progress made since launching the study, further work was needed due to the "novelty of the mandate and its legal, methodological and factual complexity."

In a letter to the Human Rights Council, Bachelet said that her office aimed to finalize and issue the study "in coming months.”

Many activists were outraged, noting that Bachelet's predecessor, Zeid Raad al-Hussein, already delayed its publication in 2017 before stepping down in August 2018.

Bruno Stagno Ugarte of Human Rights Watch, said in a statement, "Each delay further entrenches corporate involvement in the systematic rights abuses stemming from illegal settlements," calling for Bachelet to commit to a clear publication date.

In late February, Palestinian rights groups and trade unions urged Bachelet to publish the database, saying that further delays would undermine her office and foster what they called an "existing culture of impunity for human rights abuses and internationally recognized crimes in the Occupied Palestinian Territory."

Additionally, the World Jewish Congress, Robert Singer, welcomed the delay of the publication, saying the report should be “put off” for good as it would financially hurt thousands of employees, both Israeli and Palestinian, of targeted companies.

It is noteworthy that in November, home-renting company, Airbnb, decided to remove its listings in Israeli settlements in the West Bank.

Palestinians believed that by contributing to the Israeli settlement economy, Airbnb, like many other companies doing business in the West Bank, helps maintain Israel's settlement enterprise.

According to settlement watchdog Peace Now, in the year and a half since President Trump took office some 14,454 units in the West Bank has been approved, which is more than three times the amount that was approved in the year and half before his inauguration (4,476 units).

Since the occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in 1967, between 500,000 and 600,000 Israelis have moved into Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, in violation of international law.

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