Palestine Update 108
Special Edition – Call to action
Palestinian demands of UN Data base of corporate complicity in the occupation
On 25th January, 81 organizations in Palestine issued a collective statement calling on “UN Secretary-General, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, and Member States of the UN Human Rights Council to ensure the timely publication and annual update of the database established under Human Rights Council.
The imminent report is drawing edgy reactions from Israel and its main ally, the US. The report is apt to expose a large number of corporates which have done business, notably in settlement areas, and which have directly supported the occupation machinery and infrastructure.
There are unrestrained and shrill lobbying efforts on to withhold the release of this report. Israel fears that naming and shaming corporates that have profited from the misery of Palestinians by engaging on the side of the occupation will discourage further investment in Israel from other corporates. It might all lead to rapid escalation of pull backs by companies who may want to protect their image and not be seen as being on the side of an unbelievably oppressive, and fascist political regime. The report threatens to create economic havoc for the Israeli economy. Echoes from the BDS Movement in South Africa are sounding alarms bells in Tel Aviv leading to political paranoia.
The 81 organizations are asking member States “to establish and enact coherent, consistent policies on business and human rights, where the occupied Palestinian territory is not considered an “exception” to the implementation of National Action Plan (NAPs) and other domestic policies”. They are also asking for all states to use the database as a tool to facilitate the implementation of measures under UNSCR 2334, according to which Israel’s establishment of settlements in Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity, and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the vision of two States living side-by-side in peace and security, within internationally recognized borders.
The Palestinian organizations argue that after 50 years of occupation, the database comes as an important, impulse towards transparency and accountability. They are not only demanding an end to Israel’s occupation, but also “an end to corporate complicity in the colonization of Palestine”
It is also important that this information is widely made known in the public domain so that Israel is embarrassed. As well, corporates that are now complicit in Israeli war crimes need to be exposed as placing profits before human life and ethical business values. It is equally important that groups and individuals, churches, social movements, trade unions, and others who have mass support and political access lobby are mobilized and ensure that this report widely known and acted upon.
Palestinian organizations demand release of UN Database
-Call for Third State Action to End Corporate Complicity in Occupation-
In March 2018, during the 37th Human Rights Council session in Geneva, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is expected to present a report under Human Rights Council resolution 31/36. The report, and the data which shall be transmitted therein, will provide an important tool to end corporate complicity in Israel’s prolonged occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT). For over 50 years, Israel has occupied the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip. Israel has used its control over Palestinian territory to unlawfully colonize Palestinian land and reap economic benefits from the abundant natural resources present for the Israeli national and settler economy. Israel’s occupation, appropriation and annexation of Palestinian land and natural resources has also served to de-develop the Palestinian economy, fragment and isolate Palestinian communities, and relegate the OPT as a captive market. This is evidenced in the manipulation of Palestinian workers who are forced to seek employment on land unlawfully appropriated from them. While countless UN General Assembly and Security Council resolutions have condemned Israel’s violations of international law, including the continued maintenance and expansion of Israel’s settlement enterprise, the occupation has become further entrenched by the assistance of Israeli and international businesses.
In an effort to shed light on Israel’s continued violations, the Human Rights Council established a fact-finding mission (FFM) “to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people” throughout the OPT. The 2013 FFM report highlighted the impact of business enterprises in enabling, facilitating, and profiting from Israel’s settlement enterprise, and underscored activities that “raise particular human rights violations concerns.” These activities range from “[t]he use of natural resources, in particular water and land, for business purposes” to “[b]anking and financial operations helping to develop, expand or maintain settlements,” to “the supply of surveillance and identification equipment for settlements, the wall and checkpoints directly linked with settlements.”
In 2016, the Human Rights Council adopted resolution 31/36 calling for the production of a database of all business enterprises involved in the activities identified by the FFM report. The resolution further called for the database to be transmitted in the form of a report (hereinafter “database”), as aforementioned. The database, along with the increased worldwide focus on business complicity in Israel’s occupation, comes alongside other global developments in the field of business and human rights. These include efforts by the international community to establish a binding treaty on the regulation of activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises under international human rights law, and the development and enactment of national action plans (NAP) on the implementation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) by States. As such, Human Rights Council Resolution 31/36 particularly calls on business enterprises to respect human rights in the OPT in accordance with international law and the UNGPs.
Using the Database as a Human Rights Tool
The UNGPs, issued in 2011, call on States and business enterprises to respect international human rights law, as well as international humanitarian law in situations of armed conflict. States have demonstrated their commitment to the UNGPs through the development and publication of NAPs. In its NAP, the United States government, for example, notes that it encourages “businesses to treat tools like the OECD Guidelines and the UN Guiding Principles as a floor rather than a ceiling for implementing responsible business practices.” The US NAP goes on to acknowledge “the heightened risk of serious human rights impacts in conflict-affected areas” and thus “encourages corporate due diligence and reporting under such circumstances.” Germany’s NAP similarly acknowledges the heightened risk of violations in conflict areas, and underscored its “responsibility to try to ensure that German enterprises operating in such conditions have no part in any adverse impacts on human rights.”
These and all other NAPs should be read alongside the 2014 statement on the OPT of the UN Working Group on Business and Human Rights (UNWG) in order to ensure the “non-discriminatory” implementation of the UNGPs. In its statement, the UNWG reaffirmed the applicability of the UNGPs to the OPT, and recognized the situation as one of military occupation. The UNWG further underscored the role of both home and host States in implementing both unilateral and multilateral actions to effectively “prevent and address the heightened risk of business involvement in abuses in conflict situations.” Where the home or occupying state may be “unwillingly or unable to protect human rights,” the role of home states of transnational corporations becomes even more important. States policies should therefore seek to address adverse human rights impacts arising from Israel’s settlement enterprise; Palestinian organisations consider the database as a critical tool in this regard.
In addition to the UNGPs, in 2016, UN Security Council Resolution 2334 called upon all States to “distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967” in light of the flagrant violation of international law constituted by Israel’s settlements. The resolution called for a report to be issued every three months to the Security Council on the implementation of the resolutions provisions. While these reports by the Special Coordinator, Nickolay Mladenov, addressed an array of Israel’s continued violations of international law, including the expansion of settlements, they also starkly noted the absence of action taken by the international community. To date, the periodic reports repeatedly assert that “there were no developments related to Member States’ distinguishing, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied in 1967.” Consequently, settlement products continue to flow into international markets, foreign businesses continue to operate in unlawful settlements, and Israel’s settler-colonial enterprise continues to grow at the expense of Palestinian rights. The situation highlights the failure of third states to take action in line with their international legal obligations.
In this regard, it should be noted that some States, including Israel, have criticized the data that is expected to be presented in the report. It is unclear as to whether this criticism and possible other pressure on OHCHR was the source the report’s delay. Our organizations, alongside numerous regional and international organizations, therefore reiterate that the database is an important tool that can be used by States and regional and international bodies to ensure the consistent and transparent implementation of policies. By using the database, States can issue targeted guidance and engage with business enterprises domiciled in their territory and operating in the OPT to ensure they are not involved in human rights abuses. The database will similarly put businesses on notice as to their operations and relationships linked to Israel’s unlawful settlement enterprise. Further, in line with the UNGPs, businesses included in the database should provide for or cooperate in the restitution of their adverse impacts. Because the database should be updated on an annual basis, States can then consider whether appropriate actions have been taken by such enterprises, and if not, explore “civil, administrative or criminal liability” should corporate activities “commit or contribute to gross human rights abuses.”
The undersigned Palestinian organizations call on the UN Secretary-General António Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, and Member States of the UN Human Rights Council to ensure the timely publication and annual update of the database established under Human Rights Council resolution 31/36. We encourage States to establish and enact coherent, consistent policies on business and human rights, where the occupied Palestinian territory is not considered an “exception” to the implementation of NAPs and other domestic policies. Accordingly, we further call on all states to use the database as a tool to facilitate the implementation of measures under UNSCR 2334, including by engaging with businesses domiciled within their jurisdiction which contribute to and profit from Israel’s unlawful settlement enterprise, and by banning settlement products into their domestic markets.
Given the grave breaches of international law involved, including potential corporate complicity in international crimes, Israeli and international business included in the database, which contribute to Israel’s settlement enterprise must cease their activities immediately. Businesses that have previously and continue to profit from such activities must engage with impacted Palestinian communities to ensure effective remedy. After 50 years of occupation, the database comes as an important, instinctual step towards transparency and accountability. Our organizations thus not only call for an end to Israel’s occupation, but also an end to corporate complicity in the colonization of Palestine.
For list of signatory organisations and link see :http://alhaq.org/advocacy/targets/united-nations/1178-palestinian-organizations-support-release-of-un-database-report-and-call-for-third-state-action-to-end-corporate-complicity-in-occupation