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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 September 2018

UN identifies companies linked to Israeli settlements

The majority – 143 – of the 206 companies are domiciled in Israel or the settlements, but 22 are in the US, with the rest in 19 other countries

Ateret, situated west of the Palestinian city of Ramallah, is one of hundreds of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Abbas Momani / AFP
Ateret, situated west of the Palestinian city of Ramallah, is one of hundreds of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. Abbas Momani / AFP

The United Nations has identified 206 companies that are doing business linked to illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and urged them to avoid any complicity in violations against Palestinians.

The majority of the companies, or 143, are domiciled in Israel or the settlements, followed by 22 in the United States, it said. The remainder are based in 19 other countries, including Germany, the Netherlands, France and Britain.

"Businesses play a central role in furthering the establishment, maintenance and expansion of Israeli settlements," said a report from the UN's human rights office on Wednesday.

"In doing so, they are contributing to Israel's confiscation of land, facilitate the transfer of its population into the Occupied Palestinian Territory and are involved in the exploitation of Palestine's natural resources."

The report did not name the companies and said its database was not yet complete.

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Israel's ambassador, Aviva Raz Shechter, said her government was still studying the report, launched by a resolution of the UN Human Rights Council in March 2016, but rejected the concept as "fundamentally illegitimate".

"This is part of the bias to try to delegitimise Israel," she said.

Ms Raz Shechter declined to discuss any of the Israeli companies or say whether some were state-owned, but added: "Companies are not engaged in any unlawful activities."

Both Israel and its main ally, the United States, claim the UN's 47-member Human Rights Council is stacked with opponents of Israel. US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told the council in June last year that Washington was reviewing its participation given the forum's "chronic anti-Israel bias".

Ms Haley said on Wednesday that while the report "wisely refrained from listing individual companies, the fact that the report was issued at all is yet another reminder of the council’s anti-Israel obsession".

The report said that the work in producing the UN database "does not purport to constitute a judicial process of any kind".

But businesses operating in the occupied territories have a corporate responsibility to carry out due diligence and consider "whether it is possible to engage in such an environment in a manner that respects human rights".

The office's 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.

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 and lack of access to land, water and jobs.

The report is to be debated at a UN Human Rights Council session on February 26 to March 23.

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