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 Syrian Civil War May Be Coming to an End, but Three New Wars Are Rising There

March 26 2019

With both Islamic State and the major insurgent forces largely defeated, Syria now stands divided into three parts. Some 60 percent of the country, in the west and south, is in the hands of Bashar al-Assad and his allies. Another 30 percent, in the northeast, is in the hands of the mostly Kurdish, and American-backed, Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). The final 10 percent, in the northwest, is held by Sunni jihadists, some affiliated with al-Qaeda, under Turkish protection. But, writes Jonathan Spyer, the situation is far from stable. Kurds, likely linked to the SDF, have been waging an insurgency in the Turkish areas, and that’s only one of the problems:

The U.S.- and SDF-controlled area east of the Euphrates is also witnessing the stirrings of internal insurgency directed from outside. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, “236 [SDF] fighters, civilians, oil workers, and officials” have been killed since August 2018 in incidents unrelated to the frontline conflict against Islamic State. . . . The SDF blames Turkey for these actions, and for earlier killings such as that of a prominent local Kurdish official. . . . There are other plausible suspects within Syria, however, including the Assad regime (or its Iranian allies) or Islamic State, all of which are enemies of the U.S.-supported Kurds.

The area controlled by the regime is by far the most secure of Syria’s three separate regions. [But, for instance, in] the restive Daraa province in the southwest, [there has been] a renewed small-scale insurgency against the Assad regime. . . .

As Islamic State’s caliphate disappears from Syria’s map, the country is settling into a twilight reality of de-facto division, in which a variety of low-burning insurgencies continue to claim lives. Open warfare in Syria is largely over. Peace, however, will remain a distant hope.

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More about: ISIS, Kurds, Politics & Current Affairs, Syrian civil war, Turkey