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List Of Companies Working With Israeli Settlements Made Public

Feb 13, 2020
Originally published on February 13, 2020 8:53 am
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The United Nations has published a list of companies that it says violate the human rights of Palestinians by operating in Israeli settlements in land Palestinians claim for a future state. Among the companies singled out are some from the United States, including General Mills and Airbnb. NPR's Daniel Estrin reports from Jerusalem.

DANIEL ESTRIN, BYLINE: The U.N. Human Rights Office names 112 enterprises doing business in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem. Israeli politicians from across the political spectrum say the U.N. list will lead to a boycott of those companies.

PRESIDENT REUVEN RIVLIN: (Speaking Hebrew).

ESTRIN: Israeli President Reuven Rivlin read out some of the companies on the U.N. list. Most of them are Israeli - banks that give loans for Israeli settler housing, bus companies and bakeries that service settlements. He likened it to anti-Semitic boycotts of Jewish businesses in the past.

RIVLIN: (Through interpreter) Boycotting Israeli companies does not advance the cause of peace and does not build confidence between the sides. We call on our friends around the world to speak out against this shameful initiative, which recalls dark periods in our history.

ESTRIN: About a dozen of the companies on the list are from the U.S., the U.K., France and other countries, mostly European. The U.S. and Israel lobbied the U.N. for several years not to publish the list. Anne Herzberg of the Israeli lobbying group NGO Monitor questions why U.N. human rights chief Michele Bachelet released the list.

ANNE HERZBERG: Perhaps even to throw a bone to the Palestinians, given the Trump peace plan, it looks like she decided to reward them with a consolation prize by putting this list out.

ESTRIN: President Trump's new peace plan would let Israel keep all its settlements in the West Bank, and a future Palestinian state would snake around them through roads and tunnels. Palestinian officials say Israeli settlements must be uprooted and praised the U.N. for naming and shaming companies connected to them.

Palestinian Authority official Sabri Saidam.

SABRI SAIDAM: Any dealing and wheeling with existing settlements prolong their life. So we consider it to be a call for action for these companies to review their position, as they are intentionally breaking international law on Palestinian land.

ESTRIN: The question is whether companies will feel compelled to leave the area. One of them the U.N. has singled out is Airbnb, which lists vacation rentals in Israeli settlements. Last year, the company promised to stop listing rentals and settlements, then backtracked when Israel protested. Airbnb would not comment on being named by the U.N.

Also on the U.N. list is U.S. food company General Mills because a factory in an Israeli settlement industrial zone makes Pillsbury bakery products, like bread and croissants. A General Mills spokeswoman told NPR the factory workers are about half Palestinian, half Israeli, with employment benefits, safe working conditions and, quote, "compliance with labor and human rights laws."

Daniel Estrin, NPR News, Jerusalem.

(SOUNDBITE OF GREGORY DAVID'S "RUN ON SENTENCES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.