The United Nations (UN) has finally published a list of companies that do business in illegal Israeli settlements, after years of unexpected delays.
The publication was welcomed by supporters of Palestinians—and met with outrage by Israel and its defenders.
Some 112 companies—including three British ones—were included on the list released by the UN’s Human Rights Council (UNHRC) on Wednesday. They are all involved in settlements—towns built by Israel in the Palestinian West Bank and East Jerusalem, which it invaded in 1967.
Among them was British firm JCB, whose construction equipment is used to construct settlements as well as to demolish Palestinian homes by the Israeli military.
The other British firms on the list are online travel company Opodo and metal coating company Greenkote. Other well-known firms include booking.com and AirBnB, which offer holiday accommodation in the settlements.
The BDS movement—a Palestinian-led international campaign to boycott companies that profit from the occupation—welcomed the list’s publication.
A BDS statement said, “The publication of this database is a very significant first concrete step by any UN entity towards holding to account Israeli and international corporations that enable and profit from Israel’s illegal settlement.”
It added, “Still, the database is incomplete. All companies that are complicit in Israel’s apartheid regime and its grave violations of Palestinians rights under international law must be added.”
It called on bodies such as councils and trade unions “to stop contracting, procuring from or investing in the listed companies”.
The state of Israel and its defenders reacted with outrage at the list’s publication. It comes after US president Donald Trump released plans to annexe all settlements to Israel, and amid attempts to ban and discredit BDS as antisemitic.
The UNHRC first voted to produce the database in 2016, but it repeatedly delayed publication amid accusations of “bias” from Israel.
Supporters of Israel want to brand BDS as antisemitic. They claim it singles Israel out because it is Jewish. In fact BDS is a tactic used in solidarity with Palestinian activists, who called for an international campaign to support their struggle against occupation.
Boris Johnson’s plan for government includes an aim to ban public bodies such as councils from boycotting firms involved in the occupation.
And organisations that have led attempts to brand the Labour Party as antisemitic attacked the UNHRC for publishing the list.
In a statement, the right wing Board of Deputies of British Jews described the occupation as merely a “territorial dispute”. It condemned the UN for taking “this measure only against Israel, the world’s only Jewish state”.
“The UK has rightly called time on this kind of bias,” it added.
Figures behind the pressure group Labour Against Antisemitism endorsed the statement. They say BDS and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign are both antisemitic.
Supporters of the Palestinians must resist attempts to discredit solidarity as antisemitic. The UNHRC’s list should bolster everyone who wants to defend the right to campaign against Israel.