WORLD

UN watchdog warns firms operating on Israel settlements

UN WATCHDOG WARNS FIRMS OPERATING ON ISRAEL SETTLEMENTS

UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid bin Ra'ad Zeid al-Hussein has warned scores of Israeli and foreign companies about their operations in Israel's illegal West Bank settlements, Israeli daily Haaretz reported late Wednesday.

According to the newspaper, al-Hussein began sending letters earlier this month to 150 Israeli and foreign companies warning them that they would be added to a blacklist of companies doing business in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

Haaretz quoted an unnamed Israeli official as saying that al-Hussein had informed these firms that they were "doing business in the occupied Palestinian territories and could thus find themselves on the UN's backlist of companies acting in violation of international law".

"The letters, copies of which also reached the Israeli government, request that these firms send the commission clarifications about their business in the settlements," the same official said.

Haaretz also quoted a western diplomat who told the newspaper on condition of anonymity that half of the targeted companies were Israeli, while the rest were U.S.-based, German, South Korean or Norwegian.

The same paper went on to report that the companies had responded to the commissioner's notice by saying that they did not intend to renew their contracts in Israel or sign new ones.

"These companies can't make the distinction between Israel and the [illegal] settlements and are ending their operations all together," the Israeli official was quoted as saying.

"They will not invest in something that reeks of political problems," he added.

Israel occupied the Palestinian West Bank, including East Jerusalem, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli War. It annexed the entire city in 1980, claiming it as the capital of the self-proclaimed Jewish state.

International law views the West Bank and East Jerusalem as occupied territories and considers all Jewish settlement-building activity there as illegal.

Nevertheless, roughly 500,000 Israelis now live on more than 100 Jewish-only settlements built on these territories since 1967.

The Palestinians, for their part, want these areas -- along with the Gaza Strip -- for the establishment of a future state of Palestine.

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