UNHRC’s game is rigged, so Israel isn’t playing - Analysis

The UNHRC is publishing this list even though the only support it received for doing so was from the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, South Africa, Venezuela and Cuba.

The empty seat of Israel is pictured during a session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, 2019 (photo credit: DENIS BALIBOUSE/REUTERS)
The empty seat of Israel is pictured during a session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, 2019
(photo credit: DENIS BALIBOUSE/REUTERS)
The release on Wednesday of the UN Human Rights Council’s blacklist of companies that operate in Judea and Samaria caught Jerusalem by surprise.
Not that anyone was particularly surprised by the content - the list was a foregone conclusion since the UN Human Rights Council voted in 2016 to have the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) compile it - but the OHCHR did not give Israel any warning. In fact, UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet has refused to meet with Israeli officials over a year.
That alone suggests how rigged against Israel the UN Human Rights Council’s game is.
The US left the UNHRC in June 2018 due to its anti-Israel slant, with then-US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley calling it a “cesspool of political bias.” Israel, which was not a member, cut ties with the body immediately after, but continued contacts with the OHCHR, the professional arm of the UNHRC. Now, Jerusalem has completely cut ties with Bachelet.
The UNHRC has a permanent agenda item against Israel at each of its three annual sessions. The item calls Israel to “immediately end its occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” without any mention of Palestinian terrorism, and expresses concern at “the suffering of Syrian citizens in the occupied Syrian Golan” without any mention of Syrian President Bashar Assad massacring his own citizens. The only mention of terrorism is that by “extremist Israelis.” Last year, EU member states had enough and voted against the recurring Item Seven, in light of its “imbalance.”
And now, the OHCHR is publishing this list even though the only support it received for doing so was from the Arab League, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, South Africa, Venezuela and Cuba.
In other words, though there was far more significant international support for the move, UNHRC plowed through, further proving its structural and institutional bias against Israel.

The UNHRC has never released a similar blacklist for companies in disputed territories in any other conflict, though there are plenty of others around the world.
The weaknesses of the blacklist are clear. The OHCHR began compiling it in March 2016, and Israel was able to convince the previous UN Human Rights Commissioner not to publish it, but Bachelet boycotted meetings with Israelis about the document that is sure to encourage boycotts of Israel.
The compilation process was lacking in transparency and has no consistent legal standards. The council did a slapdash job, apparently mixing lists from organizations critical of Israel and not consulting any of the companies or Israeli officials.
There is no explanation of why some companies active in the West Bank in the categories they mention are on the list of 112 while others aren’t. Jerusalem’s iconic Angel Bakery is on the list, though it is unclear how it would fit into any of the listed categories, which include surveillance, demolition, pollution and hindering the Palestinian economy, among others. Some of the categories do not specify that these business activities have to take place in settlements – and yet it is only a blacklist of businesses working with the Jews in the West Bank and not the Arabs. Much of the list provides services to both Palestinians and Israelis.
It’s also worth noting that the UNHRC’s mandate is to help UN member states, not corporations, implement the council’s decisions on human rights.
 
Though the UNHRC’s anti-Israel slant is blatant, the blacklist is both a public relations problem and a potential economic problem. It’s a public relations problem because there are enough people who don’t know that the council is a sham, that commends instead of condemns violators like Iran for their human rights records. It’s a potential economic problem, because some of these companies – especially the 18 from abroad – may feel pressured to stop doing business with Israelis in Judea and Samaria.
Right now, Israel’s plan to mitigate the damage is to work, with American support, to remind the companies on the list that they are not doing anything illegal. Israel is also highlighting the anti-boycott laws passed in 28 states in the US. Israeli consuls in the US have been instructed to contact the governors of states with anti-boycott laws in which companies on the list operate.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demonstrated the Israeli strategy to combat this problem in his remarks on the blacklist. First, he called the UNHRC “biased and lacking in influence” – in other words, the companies can ignore them.
Then, he says: “In recent years, we promoted laws in most states in the US that say that they must take firm action against anyone who tries to boycott Israel.” In other words, if you consider not ignoring the UNHRC, know that there will be consequences.
What Netanyahu and the Foreign Ministry realize is that the only way to fight back against a game that is fixed at the outset is to refuse to play it.
“Whoever boycotts us will be boycotted,” Netanyahu said at a Likud event in Merom Galil. “This is unimportant. We are not afraid… We are not apologizing and not withdrawing even a millimeter.”