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Israel, US 'morally repugnant' for trying to block UN list of firms working in settlements

Aug. 23, 2017 10:08 P.M. (Updated: Aug. 24, 2017 5:19 P.M.)
Hanan Ashrawi, with the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO/AFP/File)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Reports emerged this week that the Trump administration was working with the Israeli government to obstruct the publication of a United Nations “blacklist” of companies working in Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory.

In response, PLO Executive Committee Member Hanan Ashrawi released a statement on Wednesday, calling US and Israeli efforts at the UN “morally repugnant.”

The attempt “exposes the complicity of Israeli and international businesses in Israel’s military occupation and the colonization of Palestinian land,” Ashrawi said. “This is a clear indication of Israel’s persistent impunity and sense of entitlement and privilege.”

Last year, the United Nations Human Rights Council passed a resolution to support forming a database of all companies conducting business in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, amid fierce opposition by the United States and Israel.

According to The Washington Post, some of the American companies included on the list are Caterpillar, TripAdvisor, Priceline.com, Airbnb, among others.

The Washington Post also reported that Zeid Raad al-Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights, had said that the UN planned to publish the list by the end of this year.

The database is also expected to be updated each year to reflect changes in companies’ policies of working in Israeli settlements or to include other companies.

Ashrawi highlighted in her statement that Israel’s settlement activities constituted a “war crime” and were in direct violation of international law and several UN resolutions.

“Any company that chooses to do business in the illegal settlements becomes complicit in the crime and therefore liable to judicial accountability,” she said, adding that it was the right of individuals, companies, and firms to be “informed and ethical consumers or investors – especially when a grave injustice of this proportion is at stake.”

“Suppressing the truth perpetuates Israeli impunity and gives Israel clear license to pursue its persistent policies of land theft and creeping annexation of Palestine,” Ashrawi added.

The Washington Post reported that both Israel and the United States had unsuccessfully attempted to block funding for the database, while Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon called the UN’s publication of the list “an expression of modern antisemitism.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had also condemned the list, claiming that it unfairly targets Israel and noting that it was part of the larger Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement, which targets specific companies profiting off of Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory and falls within the traditions of the nonviolent boycott movement against the apartheid regime in South Africa.

Israel and the United States have been starkly opposed to any move that could give weight to the BDS movement, and have often claimed that any support of a boycott against Israel amounts to anti-Semitism.

Israel has tightened the noose on the BDS movement in recent months, most notably by passing the anti-BDS law, which bans foreign individuals who have openly called for a boycott of Israel from entering the country.

Israel’s crackdown on the BDS movement has also seen several Jewish activists being denied entry into Israel, which has caused critics to question the ideological motives of the so-called “Jewish State.”

Furthermore, Israel has routinely condemned the UN for what it sees as their anti-Israel stance, as numerous resolutions have been passed in recent months condemning Israel’s half-century occupation of the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and its relentless settlement enterprise that has dismembered the Palestinian territory.

However, Palestinians and activists have long pointed out that nonviolent movements, expressed both in BDS activities and raising awareness on the international stage, are some of the last spaces to challenge Israel’s occupation, as Israeli forces have clamped down on popular movements in the Palestinian territory, leaving many Palestinians with diminished hope for the future.
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