US to boycott UNHRC blacklist of companies trading with settlements

The US objection to the database, he said, is not a reflection of its policy on West Bank settlements.

By
March 31, 2016 00:11
3 minute read.
The United Nations headquarters

The United Nations headquarters. (photo credit: REUTERS)

The United States does not intend to provide the United Nations Human Rights Council with information for its new blacklist of companies doing business with West Bank settlements, US State Department spokesman John Kirby told reporters in Washington on Wednesday.

The Obama administration, he said, is opposed to the resolution on West Bank settlements the UNHRC approved last week in Geneva, as it wrapped up its 31st session.

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A reporter then quizzed Kirby about his statement.

“The logical follow-on is that you’re not going to contribute to this information to this database, right?” Kirby responded, “That would be the logical conclusion.”

The US is no longer a member of the council and therefore was not able to vote against the resolution, Kirby told reporters.

In the past it was often the lone vote against such resolutions.

The US objection to the database, he said, is not a reflection of its policy on West Bank settlements. The Obama administration “strongly opposes Israeli settlement activity in the occupied territories. We continue to view it as eroding the prospects for a two-state solution,” Kirby said.

But it also opposes the UNHRC’s bias against Israel, particularly its mandate to debate Israel’s human rights violations against the Palestinian at every session, under Agenda Item 7. Israel is the only country for which there is such a mandate.

“We continue to unequivocally oppose the very existence of that agenda item, and therefore, any resolutions at the UNHRC that come from it. We consistently raise our staunch opposition to the council’s bias against Israel. It does not serve the interests of the council to single out one country, in what we believe to be, an unbalanced manner,” he said.

In addition, Kirby said, the US believes that the creation of a data base on companies doing business with West Bank settlements is outside the UNHRC’s mandate.”

According to the resolution, the extensive database targets not just companies doing business inside the settlements, but all corporate connections to any aspect of settlement life.

Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid praised the State Department’s statement, saying that the US recognizes the UNHRC’s hypocrisy.

“The State Department’s criticism [of the UNHRC decision] is very important to Israel,” Lapid stated. “The anti-Israel decision to create a blacklist is anti-Semitic and serves the BDS movement, behind which stand radical Islamists.”

Lapid said the UNHRC lost its legitimacy long ago and turned into the “terrorists’ rights council.”

Earlier this week at the anti-BDS conference sponsored by the Hebrew daily Yediot Aharonot, the European Union’s Ambassador to Israel Lars Faaborg Andersen said the EU is also opposed to Agenda Item 7 and believes that the UNHRC treats Israel unfairly.

“We have recognized on several occasion that Israel does not face a level playing field in the international human rights council [UNHRC],” he said.

“We have been trying in various ways to help Israel overcome some of these obstacles,” Faaborg-Andersen said, adding, “but there is only so much we can do.”

The seven EU countries on the 47-member UNHRC were among the 15 nations that abstained from the resolution on West Bank settlements, which passed with 32 votes last week under Agenda Item 7.

Faaborg Andresen later told The Jerusalem Post that with respect to this resolution, the EU sees little difference between abstaining and voting against it. It similarly abstained from the resolution on the return of the Golan Heights to Syria and one on holding Israel accountable for human rights violations.

Overall the UNHRC approved five resolutions under Agenda Item 7 last week.

The EU supported two of those resolutions, a general one on human rights issues in the Palestinian territories and one in support of the Palestinian right to self-determination.

Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.


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