U.N. rights office issues report on companies active in West Bank settlements

FILE PHOTO: U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet attends a session of the Human Rights Council at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, September 9, 2019. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

GENEVA (Reuters) – The United Nations human rights office on Wednesday issued a report on companies it said have business ties to Israeli settlements in the West Bank, a long-delayed move likely to draw the ire of Israel and its main ally the United States.

In a statement, it said it had identified 112 business entities which it has reasonable grounds to conclude have ties with Israeli settlements – 94 domiciled in Israel and 18 in six other states.

It identified companies listed in the United States, France, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Thailand and Britain. Among these was U.S.-based home-renting company Airbnb.

“I am conscious this issue has been, and will continue to be, highly contentious,” U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said.

Her office said the report “does not provide a legal characterization of the activities in question, or of business enterprises’ involvement in them.”

Airbnb said in November 2018 that it would remove listings in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. But it said the following April that it would not implement the planned delisting and would donate proceeds from any bookings in the territory to international humanitarian aid organizations.

Israel captured the West Bank in a 1967 war. Palestinians deem the settlements, and the military presence needed to protect them, to be obstacles to their goal of establishing a state. Israel disputes this.

In an initial reaction, Israel’s foreign minister called the report a “shameful capitulation” to anti-Israel groups. Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki welcomed the report as a victory for international law.

Reporting and writing by Stephanie Nebehay; additional reporting by Jeffrey heller in Jerusalem and Ali Sawafta in Ramallah, Editing by Timothy Heritage

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