Elham Asaad Buaras
The UN has voted to establish a database of firms doing business in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank in March. The Palestinian envoy to the UN said that the passage of this resolution and others by the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) were a “message of hope” to his people.
“Israel continues to systematically violate the inalienable rights of the Palestinians while enjoying impunity from the international community,” Palestinian Envoy to UNHRC, Ibrahim Khreisheh said.
Settlements built on territories occupied by Israel in 1967 are considered illegal under international law. Thirty-two of the 47 members of the Geneva-based UNHRC voted to adopt the motion calling for the establishment of the database. None voted against the motion, while 15, mostly European nations, abstained.
The database will provide a resource for any organisation wanting to divest from companies involved in Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands.
It will potentially include a number of Israeli and international firms working in industries from banking to construction and security services.
The Palestinians have been campaigning for tougher sanctions against illegal settlements.
Welcoming the news, Europe Campaigns Officer for the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) National Committee, the broadest coalition of Palestinian organisations that leads and supports the BDS movement, Riya Hassan, said, “By voting to establish this database, this resolution supports the view of the BDS movement that companies must be held to account for their participation in Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights and international law.”
“Just as at the height of the boycott of South Africa, the BDS movement is successfully persuading international companies to end their support for Israel’s crimes and we are starting to notice a domino effect.”
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, called the body “an anti-Israel circus which attacks the only democracy in the Middle East and ignores the blatant violations of Iran, Syria and North Korea.”
According to the UN’s Trade and Development Agency, the Conference on Trade and Development, direct foreign investment in Israel dropped by 46 percent in 2014 as compared to 2013, partially due to the impressive growth of the BDS impact, as stated by one of the report’s authors.
In January 2016, Human Rights Watch issued a report, Occupation, Inc. urging international businesses to comply with their human rights responsibility and stop operating and servicing illegal Israeli settler colonies.