February 14, 2020 | Policy Brief

UN’s New Anti-Israel Blacklist Condemns Companies for Generic Business Activities

February 14, 2020 | Policy Brief

UN’s New Anti-Israel Blacklist Condemns Companies for Generic Business Activities

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet released a blacklist on Wednesday of 112 companies operating in “Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory … and in the occupied Syrian Golan.” Though her report claims to target companies whose specific activities raise “particular human rights concerns,” the vast majority of companies on the list appear to be conducting generic business activities.

The blacklist divides the 112 firms into 10 categories. Many companies belong to multiple. Category E, accounting for 61 companies, deals with the “provision of services and utilities supporting the maintenance and existence of settlements.” This could apply to nearly any firm working with Israeli communities in the disputed territories. Category G, accounting for 68 companies, covers “the use of natural resources, in particular water and land, for business purposes,” which could also include nearly any company with a footprint in Jewish areas of the West Bank. Additionally, 10 companies are listed under category F for providing “banking and financial” services to the settlements. All but one of these financial firms are also listed under category E, which includes anything from providing loans to maintaining banks and ATMs.

Only eight of the blacklisted companies are connected to defense-related activities, and two are associated with constructing either Israeli settlements or the security barrier. Given that the barrier has prevented terrorism, the United Nations is effectively punishing these companies for protecting Israeli lives.

In terms of national origin, 94 of the listed companies are Israeli, 11 are from four European countries, six are from the United States, and one is from Thailand. Of the American companies, four are travel-related, one manufactures food products, and one provides surveillance and identification equipment.

The blacklist is an obvious attempt to boost the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign. The BDS National Committee welcomed the database and encouraged “strategic boycotts and divestment campaigns” against companies on the list. The Palestinian Authority also vowed to punish the listed companies.

Only time will tell whether the blacklist accomplishes what its creators intended. Companies complying with the blacklist could face unwanted consequences. Airbnb’s attempt to placate the BDS campaign serves as a prime example: When Airbnb announced a withdrawal in November 2018, lawsuits and state-level anti-BDS laws convinced the company to reverse course.

In the meantime, the federal and state governments are gearing up to enforce their laws designed to counter anti-Israel boycotts. These laws already expressly forbid boycott compliance. But additional measures could reinforce the message.

David May is a research analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), where he also contributes to FDD’s Center on Economic and Financial Power (CEFP). For more analysis from David and CEFP, please subscribe HERE. Follow David on Twitter @DavidSamuelMay. Follow FDD on Twitter @FDD and @FDD_CEFP. FDD is a Washington, DC-based, nonpartisan research institute focusing on national security and foreign policy.

Issues:

Israel Lawfare Palestinian Politics United Nations