GENEVA: The United Nations human rights office said on Wednesday it had identified 206 companies so far doing business linked to Israeli settlements in the West Bank, where it said violations against Palestinians are “pervasive and devastating”.
The report is politically sensitive because companies in the UN database could be targeted for boycotts or divestment aimed at stepping up pressure on Israel over its settlements, which most countries and the world body view as illegal.
“The majority of these companies are domiciled in Israel or the settlements , with the second largest group located in the United States (22). The remainder are domiciled in 19 other countries,” the UN human rights office said in a statement.
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The report, which did not name the companies but said that 64 of them had been contacted to date, said that the work in producing the database “does not purport to constitute a judicial process of any kind”.
Its mandate was to identify businesses involved in the construction of settlements, surveillance, services including transport, and banking and financial operations such as loans for housing that may raise human rights concerns.
Human rights violations associated with the settlements are “pervasive and devastating, reaching every facet of Palestinian life,” the report said. It cited restrictions on freedom of religion, movement and education as well as lack of access to land, water and livelihoods.
Israel assailed the Human Rights Council in March 2016 for launching the initiative at the request of countries led by Pakistan, calling the database a “blacklist” and accusing the 47-member state forum of behaving “obsessively” against Israel.
Israel’s mission in Geneva said on Wednesday that it was preparing a statement responding to the UN report.
“We hope that our work in consolidating and communicating the information in the database will assist States and businesses in complying with their obligations and responsibilities under international law,” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra‘ad al-Hussein.
Zeid’s office deferred the report last February saying it needed more time to establish the database. It is to be debated at the main annual session of the UN Human Rights Council, being held in Geneva from Feb 26-March 23.