UN Takes First Step To End Israel’s Impunity

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Above Photo: A UN list of companies that do business with Israel’s illegal settlements would boost the global movement for Palestinian rights. Ryan Rodrick BeilerActiveStills

UN officials are finally moving to hold Israel accountable for breaking international law, though they are facing fierce resistance from Israel and its allies.

“After decades of Palestinian dispossession and Israeli military occupation and apartheid, the United Nations has taken its first concrete, practical step to secure accountability for ongoing Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights,” said Omar Barghouti, a founder of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. “Palestinians warmly welcome this step.”

On Wednesday, Israel’s Haaretz newspaper reported that the UN’s human rights office began sending letters to some 150 companies around the world warning them that they may be added to a database of firms doing business with Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

This week Nickolay Mladenov, the top UN political official in Jerusalem, told the UN Security Council that “Israel’s illegal settlement activities have continued at a high rate” in gross breach of UN resolutions.

There is a growing legal consensus that international law requires governments to prohibit all trade with the settlements.

“This could snowball”

Israeli officials have admitted that many firms – though they did not provide names – have already responded to the letters by assuring the UN human rights office that they will not renew their contracts in Israel or seek new ones.

“These companies just can’t make the distinction between Israel and the settlements and are ending their operations altogether,” a senior Israeli official told Haaretz. “Foreign companies will not invest in something that reeks of political problems – this could snowball.”

The senior Israeli official confirmed what a top EU diplomat had reported back to colleagues in Brussels.

In a June memo written when he was the EU ambassador in Tel Aviv, Lars Faaborg-Andersen admitted that the EU had no reliable way to distinguish exports from settlements from other Israeli goods.

The Israeli official’s comments also echo the findings of a secret report by two influential Israel lobby groups leaked to The Electronic Intifada earlier this year.

The report, which was endorsed by the Israeli government, concluded that most of the “collateral damage” being done to Israel by the BDS movement is a result of a growing “silent boycott” – groups, individuals and companies who make undeclared decisions to refrain from engaging with Israel, either because of their support for Palestinian rights, or simply to “avoid unnecessary problems and criticisms.”

Household names

Last month, The Washington Post named some of the American companies warned by the UN that they may be listed in the database.

They include household names such as CaterpillarTripAdvisor, Priceline.com and Airbnb.

According to Haaretz, about 30 of the 150 companies are American while others are from Germany, South Korea and Norway.

The Washington Post also outlined the strong American opposition to the database, whose creation was mandated by a UN Human Rights Council vote last year. Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, has called the database “shameful” and said her country is considering pulling out of the UN Human Rights Council.

Israel has set up a government task force to try to thwart the list, but according to Haaretz, most of the officials involved in the effort believe publication of the database in December is “inevitable.”

With the list looming, US lawmakers have proposed legislation – the Israel Anti-Boycott Act – that could impose harsh fines and prison terms for companies and their personnel who participate in a boycott of Israel and its settlements that is deemed to be encouraged by an international organization.

Israel’s “desperation”

The intensity of the US pressure – and the long history of the so-called international community’s pandering to Israel – means that it cannot be taken for granted that UN officials will not capitulate again.

Two years ago, then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon caved in to Israeli and American pressure and removed Israel from a UN list of serious violators of children’s rights.

In March, Ban’s successor Antonio Guterres bowed to US pressure and suppressed a report that found that Israel practices apartheid against Palestinians.

One of the conclusions of that report is that research and legal analyses by UN bodies – such as the United Nations Center Against Apartheid – were critical resources for civil society activists in their efforts aimed at “legitimating boycott, divestments and sanctions, and contributing to the overall formation of a transnational movement against apartheid in South Africa.”

The report urged a similar approach toward ending Israeli apartheid. Veteran campaigner Adri Nieuwhof recently wrote for The Electronic Intifada that UN registers of firms, athletes and entertainers complicit in South African apartheid gave a huge boost to the international solidarity campaign.

“That Israel wants to nip the planned database in the bud is a sign of desperation,” Nieuwhof wrote. “Israel is already a pariah state in the minds of ordinary people around the world. If Israel’s crimes do not cease, its isolation will grow.”

“We hope the UN Human Rights Council will stand firm and publish its full list of companies illegally operating in or with Israeli settlements on stolen Palestinian land, and will develop this list as called for by the UN Human Rights Council in March 2016,” BDS co-founder Omar Barghouti stated.

“If implemented properly, this UN database of companies that are complicit in some of Israel’s human rights violations may augur the beginning of the end of Israel’s criminal impunity.”

  • There are so many reasons why the occupation of Palestine should be ended.

    I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eighth century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their home towns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco Roman world, so am I compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my own home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.

    Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.”MLK jr

  • Helen4Yemen

    I read in Edward Said’s books how he (Said) was disappointed
    in MLK because he found his support for Zionism so strong.

    “The whole world must see that Israel must exist and
    has the right to exist and it is one of the great outpost
    of democracy in the world.” MLK 1967

  • I stand corrected, thank you.

  • Robert H. Stiver

    “BOIKOTT ISRAEL” indeed! — all of it.

  • Robert H. Stiver

    I also thank Helen and lament MLK’s (induced, of course) naivete. But the essential, overriding point stands and must be repeated and reinforced ad infinitum ESPECIALLY as it relates to Palestine: Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. Palestine Is STILL THE Issue! (in 2017 as it was in 1967…and as it already was in Balfour’s 1917)

  • Helen4Yemen

    “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

    Yes, Robert, that is one of the great statements that were ever spoken, but did

    a) MLK even write that statement? (Google MLK plagiarist)

    b) Did MLK mean it since injustice in Palestine was not injustice if those doing the injustice are God’s most precious children?

    In those days of complete media control in the hands of a few, the outside world heard a lot about MLK but little to nothing about Malcolm. The media owners were not threatened by MLK but they certainly were by Malcolm.

    Here is Malcolm on MLK:

    Malcolm-X on Zionist Logic. What are the chances MLK could have written it?

    http://www.malcolm-x.ORG/docs/gen_zion.htm

    _________________________
    Here are some quotes about injustice by Guevara:

    - Above all, try always to be able to feel deeply any injustice committed against any person in any part of the world. It is the most beautiful quality of a revolutionary.

    - If you have the capacity to tremble with indignation every time that an injustice is committed anywhere in the world, then we are comrades.

    - Above all, always be capable of feeling deeply any injustice committed against anyone, anywhere in the world.

  • Jon

    As indeed it is with Yemen vs Saudi Arabia!

  • Jon

    Then study too the almost 120 year US occupation of the country of Hawai’i! Think this is off the mark? That is exactly what the US ruling class wants you to think! See Hawaiian Kingdom Blog and Liberate Hawai’!

  • Helen4Yemen

    Do you see “Yemen” in my ID? It is there for a reason. Do you want us to take our focus away from the colonial settler state of Palestine and only discuss conflicts among Arab states? What do Saudi Arabia and what they call “Israel” have in common? They were both erected by Western forces and are dependent on the West for their survival. The only difference is that the people of Saudi are indigenous whereas the people in “Israel” are 100% foreign.

  • Jon

    Whoa! I am not disagreeing with you, and yes I noticed the Yemen. What I merely was doing was drawing a parallel between two highly repressive states and their suffering oppressed neighbors. The Saudis and Israelis seem to have very much in common these days!

  • Helen4Yemen

    The fact that there is a regime called “Saudi” is a tragedy not only for Arabs but for all Muslims. These former tribesmen and nomads suddenly came into immense wealth and that part of the world had witnessed tragedy after tragedy ever since. They have been thoroughly corrupted by money. And the reason that I responded the way I did was because I had assumed that you were trying to tell us to focus our attention elsewhere. But yes, we need to speak of all oppressed peoples of the world. Sorry, I had misunderstood you.

  • Jon

    Apology readily accepted. Thanks for acknowledging. Note my frequent posts in a similar vein about Hawai’i where I lived half my long life and am deeply immersed in their own sovereignty efforts. Hardly anyone outside Hawai’i, where the issue is broad and deep, has even a clue! I wrote about it in “Liberate Hawai’i!” (search engine time?)

  • Helen4Yemen

    Ok, thanks, all is well that ends well. I will look it up. But the problem is that we all can have only one priority where to focus, as you can tell from my posts, Palestine and not Yemen is my focus. I also feel pain for the people of Venezuela and would have loved to focus attention there too. But commenting on Palestine takes up all my time. And the question of Palestine is actually the question of the rest of the Arab and Muslim countries. The Iraq war was about Palestine and so was Libya and Syria. Notice that only those opposed to the Zionist entity paid a price like Saddam, Gaddafi, Assad. The erected Arab kingdoms never have to fear from empire. Please google the Oded Yinon document and read it if you have time. I read it at least once a year.

  • Robert H. Stiver

    Wonderful words, Helen! I, too, am a Palestinian (without your depth of passion for those beleaguered-and-endangered people but surely, I think, equal in my hatred of Zionism and all it represents and soils). You are my sister.

  • Helen4Yemen

    Robert: I certainly appreciate your kinds words and they mean something to me, especially considering that what I get online are only insults. I believe that if there is anything that has diminished the power of Zionism is the internet. What an amazing technology that we can now get online and speak for ourselves and be heard by the rest of the world.