This is what UN blacklisted Israeli companies really do
The UN commission has been working hard for three years and reputedly spending millions on this name-and-shame list of 112 companies. What has it come up with? Most of the companies are Israeli.
By BARBARA SOFER
I pick up my morning Jerusalem Post and read the lead article in the taxi. Headline: UN blacklists companies with ties to Israeli settlements.The long-dreaded list of businesses that operate in Jewish areas over the pre-1967 lines in Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Golan Heights has been released. Its purpose is to squash any international companies that might want to do business with so-called settlements, and maybe prevent multinationals and investors from doing business with Israel at all, because it’s so hard to figure out where techie innovators live or where software is being created. Take Mobileye in Jerusalem, or EXALT in Samaria. Mobileye is in Har Hotzvim and EXALT is actually in Ramallah.So confusing. One anti-Israel activist website bashes Israel’s solar energy industry in the Negev because we are reputedly pilfering Palestinian sunlight.The nefarious UN report is the work of the UN High Commission for Human Rights and its commissioner, Michelle Bachelet. Bachelet herself hails from Chile, a country with, shall we say, a sketchy human rights record, with a 50-year veil of secrecy over victims’ testimonies given to the National Commission on Political Prison and Torture.The UN commission has been working hard for three years and reputedly spending millions on this name-and-shame list of 112 companies. Years. What has it come up with? Most of the companies are Israeli. Angel Bakeries is held in contempt for selling sliced bread for the children’s sandwiches. The Egged bus company is censured for providing transportation for workers and families. Mekorot supplies water to all, and to certain Palestinian areas for free. Paz and Dor Allon even allow so-called settlers to fill their tanks. The Israeli banks are listed, of course. There are a dozen internationally connected companies like Booking.com and Airbnb. General Mills Israel. Of course, half the workforce making Pillsbury croissants in Atarot are Palestinians. So croissants are off, but knafeh from Jafar Sweets in the Old City are okay. No wonder it took three years and so many resources.Others have used their time and brains more creatively.My irritation begins to dissolve as I give a five-star rating to my driver and exit the Gett taxi. Gett, the Tel Aviv-born ride-hailing app, is being used in 120 cities.AdvertisementEVEN THOUGH I have a parking app, I go by taxi because who wants to worry about parking when going to the Jerusalem International Convention Center with a supposed capacity of 10,000 persons?Capacity seems have been doubled. Everyone seems to be eating as I enter, getting a bag with gift socks. I grab the egg and eggplant sandwich we call sabih and a cappuccino made with a pea-based milk substitute called Ripple, on my way to the opening session of the OurCrowd Global Investor Summit.I wouldn’t miss this opening session, and neither would 23,151 others who have signed up, many on a livestream around the world. They come from 193 countries, including every country in the Arab League. The Gulf State reps are in the audience. The Chinese and other Asians are conspicuously absent because of the travel limitations related to the coronavirus.OurCrowd founder and CEO Jon Medved marks his welcome with an immediate shout out to them and a pledge that they’re not alone.“We’re in this fight together and we will fight it together,” he says, promising to use the might of the global tech community and fulfill its responsibility to fight the virus.Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion speaks emotively about holy, ancient Jerusalem becoming a great center of innovation. He welcomes the “pilgrims of technology” in our city.It’s pretty clear that despite the foolish boycott list, eyes and ears all over the world are turned to Zion to find new ideas to shape and improve this world. People everywhere want to know what the Israelis are coming up with now and how global investors will be part of this productive future.Last year I ate one of the 2,400 Beyond Meat parve burgers at the OurCrowd Summit. This year, Beyond Meat is in partnership with McDonald’s.Last year, I learned about Egdybees drones. This year they’ve been helping fight the Australian fires with drones.A competitor’s promised fast analysis of tiny blood samples was ruled faulty, but the OLO analyzer of Israeli Sight Diagnostics received FDA approval. A children’s hospital representative from Florida is onstage telling why he’d ordered the OLO analyzer to perform blood tests and provide lab-grade results – even hematology reports that might rule out cancer – in 10 minutes with just a finger prick.A patient with skin cancer on her face shows her beautiful clear skin two years after being treated without surgery by Alpha Tau’s tumor blasters, which deliver radium-223 impregnated seeds to the area.And that’s just onstage. The large hall is filled with exhibitors explaining their innovations from cannabis to cybersecurity.The theme this year is “Start-ups: Going Beyond.” As the decade has turned, the operative question is what the tech world will look at in 2030. Medved predicts we’ll be flying around in air pods and eating “meat” grown by cell lines.The summit is entertaining but not entertainment. In the corridors and meeting rooms, business is going on, more than 500 meetings between inventors and potential investors. At the OurCrowd Summit there are 212 start-ups – almost double the blacklist number – backed by over 41,000 investorsThey will change our world for the better.One presentation focuses on how a small Israeli start-up can interact with a major international corporation. In addition to the technology, there has to be a personal connection and trust.I’m sitting up front with a new friend who is a regulator for the Wall Street Stock Exchange. I’m feeling very proud as an Israeli at the sophistication of the presentations and the plethora of world-shaking ideas.Think of all these Israelis, educated in Hebrew, functioning in English, with the moxie to tread on international cyber turf. In addition, the average Israeli inventor or entrepreneur is bringing up a larger family than any colleagues in the OECD.The OurCrowd Summit is so important that the opening session should be broadcast in all the sectors of Israeli schools. Religious educators shouldn’t worry – the crowd has many kippot and head scarves. Israeli-Arab techies are integrating into the tech world.Let the United Nations be advised: Here in Israel, there’s enough sunshine to go around for everyone.The writer is the Israel director of public relations at Hadassah, the Women’s Zionist Organization of America. Her latest book is A Daughter of Many Mothers.