Occupied Jerusalem: The United Nations released a long-anticipated, and explosive, list of companies doing business with Israeli colonies in the West Bank on Wednesday, a compilation hailed by activists as potential leverage against expanding communities they see as illegal and condemned by Israeli officials as biased and, by some, as anti-Semitic.
companies range from multinational cereal giant General Mills to an Israeli bakery chainThe UN's Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva said it had reasonable grounds to identify 112 businesses - most based in Israel but several from the United States and Europe - that have business ties with the colonies. The companies range from multinational cereal giant General Mills to an Israeli bakery chain.
The list, which does not accuse any of the companies of illegal activity, was compiled at the request of the UN Human Rights Council following a 2016 UN resolution passed at the behest of Arab countries. The resolution mandated the naming of companies that were bolstering colonies in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights through certain kinds of business activities. Those include providing surveillance gear, equipment to either build colony structures or demolish Palestinian ones, banking and financial services, and tools used to usurp water or land.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh on Wednesday threatened to take international legal action against the companies.
"We demand the companies immediately close their headquarters and branches inside illegal Israeli settlements [colonies] because their presence contradicts international and UN resolutions," said Shtayyeh in a post on his Facebook page.
"We will pursue companies listed in the report legally through international legal institutions and in courts in their countries for taking part in human rights violations in Palestine." Shtayyeh said.
Michelle Bachelet, the current high commissioner for human rights, acknowledged the thankless task she had been handed.
"I am conscious this issue has been, and will continue to be, highly contentious," Bachelet said in a statement. "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."
The list debuted in the midst of a heated push to annex the colonies in light of unprecedented support from an American president. President Donald Trump has declared that US policy no longer views the colonies as inherently illegal, and his just-released peace plan allows for most of them to be absorbed into Israel proper.
Israel has bitterly protested the prolonged compilation of the list, which it said was designed to fortify a global boycott movement that many Israelis denounce as being intent on Israel's destruction. The list's release sparked furious response from across the country's political spectrum.
"The UN Commissioner's announcement regarding the publication of a 'blacklist' of companies represents the ultimate surrender to pressure exerted by countries and organizations interested in harming Israel," Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz said in a statement.
Longtime Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat congratulated the Human Rights Council for completing their investigation in the face of "fierce attacks" from Israel and the Trump administration. Israel is not a member of the council, and the United States withdrew in 2018.
"While this list does not include all the companies profiting from Israel's illegal colonial-settlement enterprise in occupied Palestine, it's a crucial first step to restore hope in multilateralism and international law," Erekat said. "This database is the first concrete step towards holding Israel accountable for its illegal colonial-settlement enterprise in over half a century."
The BDS movement itself immediately called on its followers to use the report as a target list. "These companies must be held to account, including through strategic boycotts and divestment campaigns," the group said in a statement.
The list includes a range of business types, from banks to cable companies, cafes and grocery stores, cellphone providers and real estate firms. Airbnb, which had been previously singled out by boycott activists, made the list, as did the tourist review site TripAdvisor.