UN report names 112 companies doing business with Israeli settlements in the West Bank
The United Nations' human rights office has named 112 companies it says have business ties to Jewish settlements in the West Bank, angering Israel and prompting a Palestinian threat of legal action against the firms.
A long-delayed report issued in Geneva said 94 of the companies were domiciled in Israel and 18 were listed in six other countries — the United States, Britain, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Thailand and France.
A spokesman for Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said the report was not a "blacklist" and was not intended to qualify any of the companies' business activities as illegal.
But it is a sensitive issue, as companies named could be targeted for boycotts or divestment intended to put pressure on Israel over its settlements.
"We demand the companies immediately close their headquarters and branches inside illegal Israeli settlements because their presence contradicts international and UN resolutions," Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh wrote on his Facebook page.
"We will pursue the companies mentioned in the report legally … for their participation in the violation of human rights in Palestine."
Palestinians could also demand compensation for "use of our occupied land illegally," he said.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the report as the work of a "biased and uninfluential body."
"Instead of dealing with human rights, this body is trying to blacken Israel's name," he said in a statement.
"We reject any such attempt in the strongest terms and with disgust."
Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz called the report a "shameful capitulation" to anti-Israel groups.
Airbnb and Cheerios manufacturer among companies listed
One of the businesses named in the report, home-rental company Airbnb, had already acknowledged having listings in settlements and said last April that it would donate proceeds from any bookings in the territory to international humanitarian aid organisations.
Another, Cheerios maker General Mills Inc, said it was listed because of a manufacturing facility that "uses natural resources, in particular water and land, for business purposes".
About 50 per cent of the workers are Palestinians who enjoy full social benefits and "the facility has a history of continuing employment and employee satisfaction", a General Mills spokesman said.
Israel captured the West Bank in a 1967 war. Palestinians and much of the world view the settlements as illegal under international law, but the United States and Israel dispute this.
The United States in effect backed Israel's right to build settlements on November 18 last year by abandoning its long-held position that they were "inconsistent with international law".
A Middle East peace plan announced last month by US President Donald Trump proposed allowing Israel to keep control of the West Bank settlements, though the plan would also create a Palestinian state.
The report was issued on the eve of the UN Human Rights Council's main annual session, opening in Geneva from February 24.
Neither Israel nor the United States are members of the forum, and both of them accuse it of being biased against Israel.
"I am conscious this issue has been, and will continue to be, highly contentious," Ms Bachelet said in a statement.
Her office said the report "does not provide a legal characterisation of the activities in question, or of business enterprises' involvement in them."
Source: ABC News