WASHINGTON, D.C.—The United Nations Human Rights Council’s High Commissioner for Human Rights, Prince Zeid bin Ra’ad al-Hussein, plans to publish a “blacklist” of international companies that do business with or are operating in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Golan Heights (also referred to as Israeli settlements).
The move could violate a number of United States federal and state laws.
According to the Washington Post, the “blacklist” or database has not been finalized, but it reportedly includes TripAdvisor, Priceline.com, and Airbnb, among other American companies.
The Lawfare Project, which is advising the companies listed on the potential “blacklist,” noted in a press release that if these entities are targeted, “this may be in violation of U.S. law, and they may have legal recourse.”
Both the United States and Israel are opposed to the creation of the database and diplomats have reportedly suggested the UNHRC is acting outside of its mandate with the creation of such a list.
The bipartisan Israel Anti-Boycott Act (S. 720), which was introduced by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) in March and supported by 45 additional senators from the Republican and Democratic parties, is currently pending in the Senate. The bill “opposes the United Nations Human Rights Council resolution of March 24, 2016, which urges countries to pressure companies to divest from, or break contracts with, Israel” and “encourages full implementation of the United States-Israel Strategic Partnership Act of 2014 through enhanced, government-wide, coordinated U.S.-Israel scientific and technological cooperation in civilian areas.”
In July, Lawfare Project fellow Prof. Eugene Kontorovich explained to the Washington Post that the Israel Anti-Boycott Act “makes clear that the old and existing [U.S.] anti-boycott law applies not just to the Arab League boycott, but also to the new foreign anti-Israel boycotts, such as those being organized by the U.N. Human Rights Council.”
While delivering remarks at the Graduate Institute of Geneva on “A Place for Conscience: the Future of the United States in the Human Rights Council,” U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley called the blacklist “shameful” and said it was counterproductive to the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.
Haley also warned that the United States could cut funding to the UNHRC over the list.
“Blacklisting companies without even looking at their employment practices or their contributions to local empowerment, but rather based entirely on their location in areas of conflict is contrary to the laws of international trade and to any reasonable definition of human rights,” Haley said. “It is an attempt to provide an international stamp of approval to the anti-Semitic BDS movement. It must be rejected.”
The goal of the “blacklist” appears to be to expose the names of companies conducting business in Judea and Samaria in order to leave them susceptible to attacks from individuals and groups that are anti-Israel and who promote the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) movement.
Soon after Ambassador Haley issued the stern warning to the UNHRC, Israel’s Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan threatened to cut Israel’s funding to the UNHRC if it publishes the “blacklist”
“It comes as no surprise that the proponents of the Israeli boycott—the Human Rights Council, NGOs, Arab League member states, and others—do not acknowledge the serious legal implications of actually carrying out the discriminatory conduct for which they advocate,” Benjamin Ryberg, Chief Operating Officer and Director of Research at The Lawfare Project said in a press release. “If I attended a corporate board meeting and proposed a boycott of companies that do business with or in Israel—while simultaneously warning that doing so was unlawful, and providing a laundry list of potential harm to the corporation that could result—I would be laughed out of that meeting.”
Israel’s Ambassador to the U.N. Danny Danon reportedly described the list as “an expression of modern anti-Semitism reminiscent of dark periods in history.” After referring to Hussein as “the BDS Movement’s most active member worldwide,” Dannon said Hussein was attempting to “harm” Israel “instead of doing his job.”