U.S. Companies Are Violating Palestinians’ Human Rights, U.N. Report Claims

Around 206 companies, most of which are from the U.S. and Israel, have ongoing operations inside Israeli settlements that are considered illegal under international law, according to a report issued by the United Nations Human Rights Office (OHCHR) on Wednesday.

The report says that the businesses identified are helping Israeli settlements to violate the rights of Palestinians in places like the West Bank.

“The violations of human rights associated with the settlements are pervasive and devastating, reaching every facet of Palestinian life,” the report reads. “Owing to settlement development and infrastructure, Palestinians suffer from restrictions on freedom of religion, movement and education; their rights to land and water; access to livelihoods and their right to an adequate standard of living; their rights to family life; and many other fundamental human rights.”

“Businesses play a central role in furthering the establishment, maintenance and expansion of Israeli settlements,” the report adds.

The U.N has been compiling a database of businesses engaged in activities that are “explicitly linked” to Israeli settlements or are part of a process that “enable and support the establishment, expansion and maintenance of Israeli residential communities beyond the Green Line,” according to the OHCHR.

The Green Line, a demarcation line drawn after the 1948 Arab-Israeli war, served as Israel’s de facto border until Israel fought a six-day war with its neighbors in 1967 and took control of further territory. Many Palestinian residents of the West Bank view Israel as an occupying force because the areas controlled by Israel are not officially within Israel’s internationally recognized borders.

Israel has been building settlements for Jewish residents in areas of the West Bank that have long been envisioned as part of a Palestinian state, if and when a two-state solution is reached between Israel and the Palestinians.

The settlements are illegal under the fourth Geneva Convention, which states that an occupying power “shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.” Members of the international community view these Jewish settlements as a major obstacle to negotiating peace in the Middle East.

The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution in 2016 stating that the Israeli settlements have “no legal validity” and constitute “a flagrant violation under international law.” The U.S. did not veto the resolution.

The 16-page report issued Wednesday does not name any companies specifically, but it outlines the work the U.N. will continue to do to create a comprehensive database of companies working in the settlements. Some observers say the ultimate aim of the project is to name and shame businesses. Israeli officials have argued that the report is a sign of the U.N.’s bias against Israel.

The U.N., however, claims that it is contacting the companies in question to inform them of how they can better comply with international law.

“I urge all sides to avoid misrepresenting the contents of this report, which has been produced in good faith on the basis of the mandate laid down by the Human Rights Council,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said in a statement.

“We hope that our work in consolidating and communicating the information in the database will assist States and businesses in complying with their obligations and responsibilities under international law.”