UN human rights office updates list of firms doing business with Israeli settlements

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The UN human rights office has updated a list of companies doing business with Israeli settlements, removing 15 companies from the database that were no longer involved, a spokesperson said on Friday.

The long-awaited update comes amid surging violence in the West Bank in the past 15 months including deadly clashes during army raids in volatile cities like Jenin, a spate of fatal attacks by Palestinian gunmen against Israeli settlers, and rampages by settler mobs in Palestinian villages.

However, the UN list was limited in scope due to budget restrictions and the rights office was only able to review the original list of 112 companies, spokesperson Ravina Shamdasani told a press briefing.

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There was no immediate comment from Israel. Its Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected the previous version, as did Washington which has long protested the “disproportionate attention” given to Israel by the Geneva-based council.

The database was mandated by the UN Human Rights Council in 2016 but was not released until 2020. Civil society groups say the database is an important tool to ensure transparency around business activities in the West Bank and to prompt companies to rethink their activities in the occupied territories.

Most of the firms named in the database when it was set up were domiciled in Israel but it also included international firms listed in the United States, Britain and France, among others.

Packaged food maker General Mills was one of only two international firms removed from the list. Among those that remained were online travel sites Booking.com and Expedia and home-rental company Airbnb.

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