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. . . .