There are hundreds of businesses that do business in more than 250 illegal settlements located in the occupied Palestinian territory. These settlements are subvention and maintained by Israel’s government. A database of businesses operating in these settlements will be create by the United Nations in December.
The database has been attack by Israel and the US and they want to stop its release. Danny Danon (Israel’s UN Ambassador) stated to The Associate Press that he would do all he could to prevent this list from being release.
Under the auspices of the UN Office of the Haut Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), the database is being create. This initiative has been support by numerous international and local rights organizations, including Amnesty International and the International Federation for Human Rights. The database is a regulatory initiative under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Its purpose is to assist states and businesses in ensuring that they don’t benefit from or contribute to activities in Israel’s settlements.
After reportedly engaging with up to 150 companies, 60 of which are foreign and the remainder Israeli, the UN is expect to release the database in the first quarter of 2018. The UN must clarify the function of the database to protect its legitimacy and avoid criticism. It must also show that it is not a punitive tool but a vital resource that promotes transparency in business and allows states and businesses to comply with international law.
Respect For Human Rights Businesses
The recommendation from a UN fact-finding mission on Israel’s settlements in 2013 was the basis of the database. It was endorse by Human Rights Council in March 2016.
According to the March 2017 Human Rights Council resolution, businesses cannot take the necessary steps due to the irreversible nature of the negative impact their activities have on human rights in Israel’s settlements. All business transactions in Israel or relate to Israel’s Settlements contribute to illicit financial flows that cause by illegally taken property rights.
UN Security Council Resolution 2334 prompted the need to monitor Israeli and foreign businesses involvement in Israel’s Settlements. It declared that Israel’s settlement activity on occupied territory had no legal validity and was a violation of international law. Third states were ask to exempt settlement-base entities from any dealings with Israeli entities.
There have been 18 European government advisories warning businesses about the legal, economic, and financial risks associated with business activity in Israel’s settlements. A number of financial institutions, companies and pension funds have decided to stop operations in the Palestinian territories over recent years. These include a Danish bank, a Danish pension fund, a Norwegian government fund and a Dutch bank.
Not Punishment, But Engagement
The UN database can be use to document, report and engage primary interest parties. It is not authorize to adjudicate responsibility or act as a coercive instrument of law enforcement. Commentators calling it a blacklist, however, misrepresent it and undermine it’s legitimacy.
The database must be able engage with and cooperate with businesses. Operating in territories or their home states to maximize its effectiveness. It can’t afford to alienate its target audience by acting as an adjudicative, coercive or other type of body.
The OHCHR needs to learn from past UN-led efforts at listing businesses. Consider the UN Center for Transnational Corporations. Its mandate to report on South African businesses during Apartheid-era. South Africa was never given sufficient support as it was present under sanction. UN Panel on Plundering Resources in the DRC Produced a List of Businesses. But it was discredited for not gaining businesses cooperation.
It is certain that the UN database will become embroiled in political turmoil. Although it may not be the most important of its kind in the world. It could very well be the first to serve as a regulatory tool and encourage compliance with international law.
The database should be view as a pilot tool that can extend beyond. The Israel-Palestine setting to ensure international law respect. The database’s mechanism could also be use in other areas of the world. Where military occupation is use for permanent acquisition or transformation.