In early February, the United Nations published a list of 112 companies operating in Israeli settlements. The list was commissioned by the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in March 2016. Special interest groups who pushed for the database’s creation and for Israeli settlements to be removed cited the blacklist as “an important initial step towards accountability and the end to impunity.” While the database is being praised by some, Israeli officials have been quick to respond, calling the list a result of “pressure from countries and organizations that are interested in hurting Israel.” Lists like these promote the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctioning Movement (BDS) which attempt to hurt Israel and businesses located in Israel by boycotting their services and products. The United Nations (UN) insists that the list does not carry legal weight and was simply created to inform the public, its creation falls in line with a pattern of anti-Israel resolutions and actions by both the UN and the UNHRC.
The UNHRC is made up of 47 member states which are elected to the council by the UN General Assembly. Members of the UNHRC serve three-year terms and are not eligible for immediate re-election after serving two consecutive terms. The Office of the High Commissioner of the Human Rights Council says that when voting occurs, it is important to take into account the candidate’s commitment to the preservation of human rights.
When this list of Israeli settlements was first commissioned in 2016, the countries voted onto the UNHRC included Belgium, Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Georgia, Germany, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Panama, Philippines, Republic of Korea, Slovenia, Switzerland, Togo, United Arab Emirates and Venezuela. Only one year into their three-year term, a report was filed by the Office of the High Commissioner on Human Rights (OHCHR) in which two countries listed above, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela, were both found guilty of major human rights abuses themselves. Venezuela was accused of centralizing power in its executive branch, leading to corruption and enabling the highlighted severe shortages of medicine and food, as well as allegations of abuse by the police and military against low-income families. The United Arab Emirates was accused of torturing prisoners, injustice against foreign workers, child trafficking and discrimination against women and minorities. This report led many to question why the UNHRC was comprised of states who committed major violations themselves yet were pushing more and more for resolutions that targeted Israel.
In the first decade of the UNHRC, spanning from 2006-2016, 68 resolutions were drafted to condemn Israeli policies. That’s three times the resolutions concerning human rights abuses of any other country in the world. And while the UN and the UNHRC continue to present resolutions against Israel, major human rights abuses are being ignored. A report by the UN Watch found that in the first decade of the council’s creation, no resolutions were passed concerning about 48 countries that had committed major abuses, including Cuba, China, Iraq, Pakistan, Russia and Yemen.
In its first year of creation, the UNHRC had nine resolutions and all nine condemned Israel for human rights violations. One of the nine reports “condemns Israel for military actions in Gaza,” yet neglects to mention the Hamas attacks that prompted Israel’s response. In the same year (2006) that these resolutions were brought up, the government of Uzbekistan killed hundreds of demonstrators, the Sudanese government committed ethnic cleansing, and Iraq’s government instigated the torture and murder of hundreds of its citizens, but none of these violations made their way into the report.
This new database created in early February is another example of anti-Israel resolutions put forward by the UN and the UNHRC. While this council claims to work for the “protection of all human rights for all people,” it has only focused on one real goal, to publicly condemn Israel for its policies.