U.S. to stay in UNHRC as 'black list' publication delayed

Israel's mission in Geneva said on Wednesday that it was preparing a statement responding to the UN report.

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January 31, 2018 16:27
4 minute read.
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Jewish youth hold Israeli flags at the beginning of a rally march in the West Bank settlement of Itamar, near Nablus.. (photo credit: NIR ELIAS / REUTERS)

 
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The US said it plans to remain in the United Nations Human Rights Council after publication was delayed of a list of companies doing business over the pre-1967 Green Line.

The Trump administration had previously threatened to leave the council unless it ended its biased treatment of Israel, including the publication of the database.

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“The US remains a member of the Human Rights Council and intends to be fully engaged at the upcoming March session,” a US official told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights had been scheduled to release a database of those companies by the end of 2017, as mandated by the UNHRC in 2016.

But it did not meet that December deadline and in a progress report published on Wednesday stated: “OHCHR was given limited resources to carry out the mandate within the anticipated time frame, which required it to calibrate its research and engagement with companies accordingly.”

“Not all companies about which OHCHR had received information could be contacted by the time of submission of the present report,” the office wrote.

It explained that it whittled down an initial list of 321 companies believed to meet the criteria for inclusion in the database down to 206. Out of those, it had contacted only 64.

The report did not provide the names of any of those companies in its report.



“More resources are required for OHCHR to continue its dialogue with and issue communications to relevant business enterprises, adding information to the database and updating existing information in the database,” it said. “Once OHCHR has been in contact with all 206 companies, and subject to determinations of their responses and non-responses, OHCHR expects to provide the names of the companies engaged in listed activities in a future update.

“Before the determinations on the companies are made public, OHCHR will notify the companies concerned,” the report said. “For the high commissioner to update the database as required by Resolution 31/36, more resources are required.”

The OHCHR plans to present its report at the Human Rights Council’s 37th session, which is scheduled to be held in Geneva from February 26 to March 23.

THE TRUMP administration and Israel have worked behind the scenes to thwart publication of the list, which is seen as a step toward criminalizing economic activity in those regions, including West Bank settlements and industrial zones that hire both Israeli and Palestinian workers.

Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon, in New York, immediately attacked the High Commissioner’s Office for publishing the report on the same day as it held a ceremony at its Manhattan headquarters in memory of victims of the Holocaust.

“On the day that the UN is marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the UNHRC has chosen to publicize this information about the number of companies operating in Israel,” Danon said.

“This is a shameful act which will serve as a stain on the UNHRC forever. We will continue to act with our allies and use all the means at our disposal to stop the publication of this disgraceful blacklist,” Danon said.

The data published in the report showed that 143 of the firms doing business in West Bank settlements, east Jerusalem and the Golan Heights were Israeli. The remaining 63 companies were foreign, of which the largest group, 22, was from the US.

The UNHRC reiterated its stance that such activity was illegal under international law.

“Businesses play a central role in furthering the establishment, maintenance and expansion of Israeli settlements,” the report stated.

“It is difficult to imagine a scenario in which a company could engage in listed activities in a way that is consistent with the [UN’s] guiding principles and international law.”

It also dismissed Israel’s contention that Palestinians benefit from such firms in the West Bank and east Jerusalem because the companies offer higher-paying jobs and thus help the Palestinian economy.

The report charged that the activities of the firms were harmful to the Palestinian economy.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said, “I am satisfied, given the resource constraints and the unprecedented nature of such a request from the UN Human Rights Council, that significant progress has been made.”

A State Department official underscored the administration’s opposition to the list, and praised other countries that are declining to participate in its compilation.

“As we have indicated many times, this report and the Human Rights Council resolution that created it are deeply flawed,” the official told the Post. “The United States will not engage in such politicized and biased actions taken against Israel.”

“We have not provided, and will not provide, any information or support to the Office of the High Commissioner in this process,” the official added. “We strongly urge other countries to do the same,” the official said, characterizing anti-Israel bias in the council as “pervasive.”

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