December 28, 2016
On the same day as the U.N. Security Council passed a controversial resolution condemning Israel, the 193-member U.N. General Assembly on Friday approved a budget that includes $138,700 to fund the compilation of a first-ever U.N. blacklist of private companies doing business in territories disputed between Israel and the Palestinians.
Defined in U.N. documents as a “database,” the blacklist will cover companies of any nationality that do business in Israeli “settlements” located in areas claimed by the Palestinians, including Jerusalem’s Jewish Quarter.
The move, which was mandated by the U.N. Human Rights Council (HRC) last March, is expected to benefit the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign.
The U.S., not a member of the HRC this year, did not have a vote on the matter in March, although the State Department did criticize the decision, with spokesman John Kirby calling it “an unprecedented step” that was “far outside” the scope of the HRC’s authority.
U.S. taxpayers account for 22 percent of the U.N.’s regular operating budget, plus billions of dollars more in voluntary contributions to various parts of the U.N. system each year.
Since Friday’s Security Council resolution – which passed after the Obama administration chose to abstain rather than exercise its veto – several Republican lawmakers have vowed to target U.S. funding for the world body.
The General Assembly approves the budget for the HRC, and was asked this year to green light $26.4 million over and above earlier estimates, to pay for resolutions and decisions taken during the council’s periodic sessions in Geneva.
Included in that request was the sum of $138,700 – $102,400 to pay for the individual tasked to compile the Israeli settlement blacklist over a period of eight months, and $36,300 for “documentation.”
The HRC resolution called for the list to be presented to the council at an upcoming month-long session, which is scheduled to begin in late February next year.
Earlier this month, Palestinian representative Abdullah Abushawesh made clear the BDS goal behind the move.
“We should block the source of financing for settlements on occupied Palestinian territory, in particular by drawing up a list of companies that operate on this territory, whether these companies are Israeli or from other countries,” he told General Assembly member-states considering the budget request.
“As soon as this list is drawn up we encourage all to disseminate it, and to help these transactions with these companies to be stopped,” Abushawesh said through a translator.
“Because I am sure that you would all agree that these settlements are illegitimate,” he added. “As a consequence, any products there are also illegitimate and should not be sold on your markets.”
Hours before the General Assembly adopted the budget resolution without a vote on Friday night, it was approved by the assembly’s “Fifth Committee,” which deals with budgetary affairs.
At that committee session earlier in the day, Israel’s delegation tried to insert an amendment to exclude funding for the blacklist. It was criticized by other delegates for introducing “political elements” – in the words of Slovakia, speaking for the European Union – into what they argued should be a strictly budgetary process.
Israel’s proposal was then put to a vote, and failed dismally, with just six countries (the U.S., Israel, Australia, Canada, Guatemala and Palau) in favor and 151 opposed.
Israel’s delegate afterwards dissociated his country from the specific funding requirement for the blacklist, saying that the funds were being “used to target the State of Israel.”
“It’s time to remove resources for activities that have only one agenda – to politicize the work of the Human Rights Council,” he said.
Last month, the office of the U.N. human rights commissioner Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein formally invited “all interested persons, entities and organizations” to submit information to enable it to compile the HRC-mandated blacklist.
“The identity of sources of information will be kept confidential,” it said in a notice requesting that concise and pertinent submissions be emailed by November 30.
Ahead of Friday’s budget vote in New York that included funding for the blacklist, Anne Bayefsky, president of the U.N.-focused NGO Human Rights Voices, warned that American companies “are in for a shock.”
“American taxpayers can expect to find themselves funding BDS in the very near future, with American businesses caught in the crosshairs,” Bayefsky wrote.