The Confused Legal Reasoning behind the UN’s Effort to Publish a Checklist for Boycotters of Israel

Dec. 12 2018

In 2016, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) formally instructed the high commissioner for human rights, who oversees the council’s attendant bureaucracy, to compile a database of businesses that have “directly and indirectly enabled, facilitated, and profited from the construction and growth of the settlements”—by which are meant Jewish communities in the West Bank. The list, which has not yet been made public, includes some 206 businesses, most of which are based in Israel. In a detailed report, the Kohelet Policy Forum explains why this project is nothing but an attempt to aid those who wish to boycott Israel:

The clear goal of the UNHRC . . . is to create negative reputational consequences for the listed companies, and ultimately to trigger sanctions against targeted companies through subsequent action by the Security Council or national governments. [Moreover], the current “research” program is focused only on companies with links to Israel, and particularly areas of the West Bank under the Oslo Accords under full Israeli civil administration.

But . . . business activity in what the UN regards as occupied territories is a worldwide phenomenon. Every situation of prolonged belligerent occupation in the world involves widespread “settlement” activity—a non-technical term to refer generally to the migration of civilians from the occupying power into the territory. In all of these occupations, business enterprises, including third-country firms, play a major economic role. Many of these settlement enterprises have resulted in the large-scale ethnic cleansing or displacement of the occupied population or subjected it to widespread and massive human-rights violations that have been amply documented, [but these cases are not subjects of UNHRC’s concern]. . . .

The UNHRC’s database will focus on “business activities and related issues that raise particular human-rights violations concerns,” [a scope so broad as to include] any kind of activity under Israeli auspices—from providing “construction equipment,” to “banking and financial operations,” to the “use of natural resources,” all in the vague context of “maintain[ing]” settlements. To be clear, no physical link to Jewish civilian communities is required for inclusion in the list, . . . a standard vague enough to sweep in much of Israeli industry. This definition is legally baseless. . . .

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More about: BDS, International Law, Israel & Zionism, UNHRC, United Nations, West Bank

The Riots on the Gaza Border are Carefully Coordinated Attacks on Israel, and Should Be Treated as Such

Jan. 16 2019

On Friday, the weekly riots at the Gaza security fence resumed in full force: 13,000 people participated, and a Palestinian woman was apparently killed by Israeli gunfire. The UN Human Rights Council (UNHCR) had established a commission of inquiry in May, not long after these riots began, “to investigate all alleged violations and abuses of international humanitarian law and international human-rights law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, . . . particularly in the occupied Gaza Strip, in the context of the military assaults on the large-scale civilian protests that began on March 20, 2018.” In a report to the commission, Richard Kemp, a retired senior British officer, concludes, after investigating the situation at the Gaza border, that there is no evidence whatsoever of Israeli wrongdoing, and that the commission is operating under faulty assumptions:

The terms of [the commission’s] mandate are self-evidently biased against the state of Israel and the IDF. The context cited—“the military assaults on the large-scale civilian protests”—make clear that the UNHRC either failed to understand what was happening on the ground or deliberately misrepresented the reality. In addition, the commission’s mandate terms the Gaza Strip “Occupied Palestinian Territories,” which it is not. . . .

[T]he so-called “civilian protests” in reality were, and continue to be, a deliberate military operation, orchestrated and controlled by Hamas, [a] terrorist group that has been waging an armed conflict against Israel for many years. Their intention was and remains to kill and wound IDF soldiers, to break through the border fence, to murder and maim innocent civilians, to destroy property, and to compel the IDF to take defensive action resulting in the death of Gaza civilians for exploitation in the international arena. [Israel’s] “military assaults” were not what was implied by this prejudicial mandate. They were in fact lawful, proportionate, and restrained defensive actions. . . .

Suggestions that these demonstrations are [protests] against Israeli policy toward the Gaza Strip are demonstrably false and easily refuted by cursory viewing of Hamas and other public statements made at the time of the events. . . . Further, it is clear that Hamas intended this violence to continue its long-standing strategy of creating and intensifying international outrage, vilification, isolation, and criminalization of the state of Israel and its officials. . . .

[T]he starkest indication that these events were entirely under Hamas control is the simple fact that, when it suited Hamas’s political interests, the [demonstrations] occurred and were of a violent nature, and when such actions did not serve Hamas’s interests, the border was quiet. As the most recent example of this, in November 2018, Qatar began to make large cash payments to Hamas in Gaza. The most recent payment of $15 million was handed over in December 2018. These payments are reportedly part of an agreement with Hamas to diminish violence along the Gaza border. [After] the first payment, the border violence [was] reduced [and the] demonstrations [became] far more restrained.

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More about: Gaza Strip, Hamas, IDF, Israel & Zionism, Laws of war, UNHRC