Trade union alliance urges UN to update list of firms linked to Israeli settlements

Trade union alliance urges UN to update list of firms linked to Israeli settlements
The ITUC trade union alliance is "demanding" the settlement register be "top of the agenda" when the UN Human Rights Commission convenes on 28 February.
3 min read
11 February, 2022
ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow called the delay 'unforgivable' [Getty]

A global trade union alliance has secured over 2,850 signatures on a petition urging the United Nations to update a database of companies believed to be linked to Israel's illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) found in February 2020 that there are "reasonable grounds to believe" that the 112 firms are implicated in "business activities and related issues that raise particular human rights violations concerns".

The International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) petition additionally asks the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) to form a body of experts, as was recommended by OHCHR, to help meet the HRC's request the database be revised yearly.

"Birthdays are often a time for celebration, but not this one," ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow said as the second anniversary of the list's creation neared.

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"The delay… updat[ing] this database is unforgivable and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, needs to prioritise getting this unstuck."

The ITUC is "demanding" the settlement register be "top of the agenda" when the HRC convenes for around a month starting on 28 February, the body said in a Friday statement.

An HRC spokesperson said: "[T]he High Commissioner is scheduled to present a status report on the issue of Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan, at the upcoming session of the Human Rights Council; this is planned for 25 March."

According to Burrow, the "database is too important to be left to gather dust".

She said some firms can be delisted since they are no longer involved in settlements, while others are now eligible for inclusion.

The trade union official argued that revising the register provides an "incentive and deterrent" to firms concerning settlement-related activities.

The ITUC in its petition said profit being made from settlements by corporations hampers economic advancement for Palestinians, since this is based on "annexation of land" and natural resource theft.

The organisation, which has called for a UN global peace summit on Palestine-Israel in 2022, also said in a Tuesday statement that firms working within Israeli settlements are fundamental to their survival.

Responding to a question about the HRC's position on the value and purpose of the settlement database, its spokesperson said: "It is the prerogative of UN member State[s] to raise any issue they wish to at HRC sessions.

"We have not heard of any such initiative at this stage."

There are hundreds of thousands of Israeli settlers in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, and they and Israel's security forces often use violence against local Palestinians.

The New Arab has contacted OHCHR for comment.

Note: This article was updated at 18:19 GMT on 11 February to include a response received from the UN Human Rights Council and to reflect the increased number of signatures the ITUC's petition had gained by that point.