The UN on Wednesday released a list of 112 companies with activities in Israeli settlements, which are considered illegal under international law, including Airbnb, Expedia and TripAdvisor.
The move was cheered by the Palestinians, but slammed as “shameful” by Israel, where officials fear the list could be used to boycott firms with ties to the settlements.
The UN report came in response to a 2016 UN Human Rights Council resolution calling for a “database for all businesses engaged in specific activities related to Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory.”
The council said that listing companies in the database was “not, and does not purport to be, a judicial or quasi-judicial process.”
Among the businesses on the list are a range of large international companies, including Airbnb, Alstom, Booking.com and Motorola Solutions.
“I am conscious this issue has been, and will continue to be, highly contentious,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said.
However, she added that the findings had been subject to an “extensive and meticulous review process” and that the report “reflects the serious consideration that has been given to this unprecedented and highly complex mandate.”
Israel, which routinely accuses the UN and especially the council of bias against it, was quick to slam the publication.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hinted at retaliation.
“Whoever boycotts us will be boycotted,” a statement from his office quoted him as saying. “We strongly reject this contemptible effort.”
Israeli Minister of Foreign Affairs Israel Katz labeled the move “a shameful surrender to pressure from countries and organizations who want to harm Israel.”
Meanwhile, Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad al-Malki described the publication as “a victory for international law and diplomatic efforts.”
The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, which advocates a wide-ranging embargo of Israel over its treatment of Palestinians, welcomed the list’s publication.
The database was scheduled to be released three years ago, but has repeatedly been delayed.
The council initially evaluated more than 300 companies.
However, the final report published on Wednesday cited 112 business entities that the office had “reasonable grounds to conclude have been involved in one or more of the specific activities referenced” in the 2016 resolution.
It said that 94 of the listed companies had their headquarters in Israel, while 18 others were spread across six other countries.
The council said that compiling the database had been a “complex process” involving “widespread discussions” with states, think tanks, academics and the companies themselves.
Human Rights Watch deputy advocacy chief Bruno Stagno celebrated the publication of the database.
This “should put all companies on notice: to do business with illegal settlements is to aid in the commission of war crimes,” he said.
The report said that companies were not doomed to remain on the database forever.
“Where there are reasonable grounds to believe that … the business enterprise is ceasing or no longer involved in the relevant activity, the business enterprise would be removed from the database,” it said.
The report recommended that the database be updated annually and urged the council to appoint a group of independent experts to handle the task.
Israeli settlements established in occupied Palestinian territory are considered in breach of international law and have long been seen as a major obstacle to peace, as they are built on land Palestinians see as part of their future state.
More than 600,000 Jewish settlers live in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, among 3 million Palestinians, with tensions often high.
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