Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein
Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein Reuters

The UN's Human Rights Commissioner has begun sending letters to 150 companies in Israel and around the world, warning them that they are about to be added to a database of companies doing business in Israeli communities in Judea, Samaria and eastern Jerusalem, senior Israeli officials and Western diplomats involved in the matter told Haaretz on Wednesday.

The letter-sending process began two weeks ago, the officials told the newspaper.

The Israeli official, who requested to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the issue, noted that the letters, sent by Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, said these firms were doing business in the "occupied Palestinian territories" and could thus find themselves on the UN blacklist for companies acting in violation of "internal law and UN decisions."

The letters, copies of which also reached the Israeli government, request that these firms send the commission clarifications about their business activities in settlements, according to Haaretz.

A Western diplomat, who also requested to remain anonymous, noted that of the 150 companies, some 30 were American, and a number are from countries including Germany, South Korea and Norway. The remaining half are Israeli companies.

The UN Human Rights Council voted to approve the database of companies last year, despite objections from the United States and Israel. The Trump administration has been trying to persuade the UN not to publish the list.

Recent reports said that U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley conveyed messages through diplomatic channels to senior UN officials to the effect that the U.S. will cut all funding to the UN Human Rights Council if the blacklist is published.

Palestinian Arab officials have urged the UN to publish the blacklist, saying that it is important to publish the names of companies, institutions and personalities that help the "colonialist settlement."

The Washington Post reported in August that among the American companies that received the letters from Al Hussein were Caterpillar, Priceline.com, TripAdvisor and Airbnb. Israel's Channel 2 News reported two weeks ago that the list includes some of the biggest companies in Israel, such as Teva, Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, Bezeq, Elbit, Coca-Cola Israel, Africa-Israel, IDB, Egged, Mekorot and Netafim.

An inter-ministerial committee comprising the ministries of Foreign Affairs, Strategic Affairs, Justice and Economy is still working to try to prevent the list's publication, noted Haaretz. Nonetheless, the assessment among most of those involved in the government's efforts is that it is inevitable and that the list will likely be made public by the end of December.

As part of an attempt to minimize its potential damage, Israel is attempting to reach out and hold talks with the foreign companies named on the list, stressing that it is non-binding and insignificant. It also told them it is reaching out to foreign governments to inform them that using the list is tantamount to cooperating with a boycott of Israel.

Yossi Dagan, head of the Samaria Regional Council, responded to Wednesday’s report, saying, "This is an anti-Semitic move in the full sense of the word, and its purpose is not to fight Judea and Samaria but rather the State of Israel. This is a move that will harm first and foremost the Arabs who work in the industrial zones in Judea and Samaria.”

"It is therefore clear that the goal of the UN Human Rights Council is not to harm Judea and Samaria in order to bring us back to the 1967 borders, which Abba Eban called the Auschwitz borders. Their goal is to bring us back to Auschwitz,” Dagan continued.

"I call on the Trump administration and its representative in the United Nations, Nikki Haley, to unequivocally announce the cessation of U.S. funding for the organization, which is more against the rights of Jews in their country than in favor of human rights,” he concluded.