UN delays release of Judea and Samaria ‘blacklist’

The U.N. decided to delay publication of a report on companies that operate in certain areas of Israel, which critics previously compared to the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses in the 1930s.

By Associated Press and World Israel News Staff

The United Nations’ human rights chief has delayed publication of a report on companies doing business in Israeli communities in Judea and Samaria, saying in a letter made public Tuesday that her office needs more time to carry out a complex and unprecedented task — one with deep political implications.

The decision by High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, a former president of Chile, followed criticism by the United States and other countries. Certain critics compared the U.N. “blacklist” to the Nazi boycott of Jewish businesses in Germany in the 1930s.

The U.N.-backed Human Rights Council in 2016 instructed the office Bachelet now oversees to create a “database” of companies deemed to be linked to or supportive of Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria, which the Palestinians claim are “illegal,” despite the fact that the territory in dispute was captured by Israel from Jordan, which occupied it until 1967.

The letter Bachelet sent to the council’s president, Ambassador Coly Seck of Senegal, on Monday cited the “complexity” and “novelty” of the assignment. She wrote that she was committed to fulfilling the council’s orders, but “further consideration” was needed.

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Bachelet said the office she has overseen since September has a “view to finalizing this mandated activity in coming months” but her letter did not give a more specific timeframe.

Supporters of the report say the credibility of the U.N.’s top human rights body is on the line. They want Bachelet to set a clear date for publication to raise pressure against the Israeli communities.

The report has been delayed before. It was expected to be published during the council’s current session, which ends March 22.

U.N. officials have said the human rights office received no additional resources or funds for a project that has involved reaching out to scores of companies, governments and advocacy groups.

Last year, the rights office said 206 companies, mostly Israeli and American, were facing a review of business practices involving the Israeli communities.

The council focuses a disproportionate amount of time and resources pursuing Israel, and counts among its members countries with some of the worst human rights records in the world. Israel is the only country in the world whose policies automatically face scrutiny at every council session.

The United States has called the council’s resolution emblematic of rampant anti-Israeli bias at the U.N.-backed body. The Trump administration cited the alleged bias as a leading reason it withdrew the United States from the council last year.

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Over 600,000 Israelis live in Judea, Samaria, and eastern portions of Jerusalem, territories captured by Israel in 1967 from Jordan, which Palestinians subsequently claimed as parts of a future “independent state.”

Critics say publication of the blacklist would amount to a stamp of approval from a U.N.-backed body to the anti-Israel boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) movement.

Activists in the Palestinian-led BDS movement seek to delegitimize and ultimately eliminate the Jewish state.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry called Tuesday on the council to halt any action in the economic sphere that could hurt residents of the area.

Following Bachelet’s announced publishing delay, the ministry said: “Our position in principle has not changed. The council accepted its decision without authority and with an anti-Israeli political bias.”