The Moral and Intellectual Bankruptcy of the UN’s Position on Israeli Settlements

March 11, 2020 | Brenda Shaffer, Svante Cornell, Jonathan Schanzer
About the author: Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the United States Department of the Treasury, is senior vice president for research at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He is author of the new book Gaza Conflict 2021: Hamas, Israel and Eleven Days of War (FDD Press). Follow him on Twitter @JSchanzer.

Last month, the UN Human Rights Office issued a list of 112 “business enterprises involved in certain activities relating to settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” a measure intended to support boycotts of Israel. No such measures have been taken against territories elsewhere in the world occupied by foreign powers, note Brenda Shaffer, Svante Cornell, and Jonathan Schanzer—including areas where the legal problems are far more clear-cut:

[T]he list does not include companies operating in Russia’s occupations in five regions in neighboring countries. Nor does it include businesses in Northern Cyprus, Western Sahara, Kashmir, [or] Nagorno-Karabakh, to name just a few. . . . The UN’s selective outrage and discrimination is best exemplified in its blacklist of leading international tourism-services companies, such as Airbnb,, and TripAdvisor. These same companies offer services in other disputed territories and areas under occupation, but are subject to no UN condemnation for doing so.

Most of Israel’s settlements are on public lands, and the tourism services are offered there for new homes built after Israel’s conquest of the territory. By contrast, in other conflict zones Airbnb,, and TripAdvisor openly advertise homes and services in houses [vacated by] actual refugees. In fact, these sites advertise specific dwellings that belonged to Azerbaijani refugees driven from their homes in Nagorno-Karabakh, a territory under Armenian occupation since the early 1990s.

Armenia has an extensive settlement project in the territories of Azerbaijan that it occupies. However, in contrast to Israel’s control of the West Bank, where the Palestinian population has been able to stay in their homes, Armenia expelled over 700,000 Azerbaijanis when it invaded the territories. This happened in 1992-1994, not generations ago. Armenia’s expulsion of the Azerbaijanis is the largest population expulsion in Europe since the end of World War II, yet it is hardly known in the international system.

In short, the UN Office of Human Rights is not calling attention to actual violations of international law, but is instead using any tool at hand to target the Jewish state.

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