Top Scoops

Book Reviews | Gordon Campbell | Scoop News | Wellington Scoop | Community Scoop | Search

 

Corporate Occupations: The UN Business “Black List” And Israel’s Settlements

Mikhail Bakunin, in that charming anarchist tradition, regarded the state as an evil to be done away with. Such collective formations were criminal, oppressive, eviscerating to the individual. The corporation might be regarded as a similar collective, adopting and aping elements of the state with, in some cases, greater latitude to achieve its object. At times, they collude with states to advance their interests, which rarely deviate from the profit motive; in other cases, they seek to overthrow state regimes in favour of more compliant ones.

For that reason, bringing corporate behaviour within the realm of human rights can be a tad tricky. You can take corporate managers to witness grave abuses, but you can’t make them feel. The cynicism in this field is so profound that it produces such views as those of Milton Friedman, who suggested with monetarist glee that corporations are only burdened by one task in the field of social responsibility: using their “resources and engage in activities designed to increase [their] profits so long as it stays in the rules of the game, which is to say, engages in open and free competition, without deception or fraud.”

In his New York Times Magazine piece from 1970, he took issue with those businessmen who spoke of having a “social conscience”, or sought to achieve “social” ends, be it limiting pollution, ensuring secure employment or eliminating discrimination.

Friedman’s piece was as much a distillation of a business condition as a philosophy. Invariably, the corporate condition is one-dimensional and bound to the aims of maximising share dividends and gaining market share. Every other goal tends to be subordinated to that end.

Publishing the names of various companies reaping in proceeds from occupied Palestinian lands while supporting their structural integrity would hardly shock a follower of Friedman. The follower would argue that such companies have only one moral, ethical purpose in mind, something which would preclude advancing a human rights agenda, or greater accommodation with Palestinians. But a company operating on such soil cannot entirely escape the orbit of ethical implications. The dispute hinges on the implicit assumption on Israel’s part that such businesses are, supposedly, legitimate in their operations; the counter to that is that the United Nations, and most of its members, see the settlements as illegal in international law.

Last week, the United Nations Human Rights office revealed a database of some 112 businesses connected with Israeli settlements, 94 of which are Israeli. The report was a response to a 2016 UNHRC resolution (31/36) calling for a “database for all businesses engaged in specific activities related to Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory.” US companies include Airbnb, Trip Advisor, Expedia, Motorola and General Mills. The UK’s Greenkote and France’s Alstom also feature in the list. The special rapporteur Michael Lynk saw them as essential components of economic activity within the settlements. “Without these investments, wineries, factories, corporate supply and purchase agreements, banking operations and support services, many of the settlements would not be financially and operationally sustainable. And without the settlements, the five-decade-long Israeli occupation would lose its colonial raison d’être.”

Lynk felt that publishing details of those businesses did constitute some measure of rebuke, however small. “While the release of the database will not, by itself, bring an end to the illegal settlements and their serious impact upon human rights, it does signal that sustained defiance by an occupying power will not go unanswered.”

One notable qualifier on the list has gone unnoticed. In a statement from the UN Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, the point was made that identifying the companies had not been a judicial or quasi-judicial exercise. The settlements were illegal, but the report did not furnish a “legal characterization of the activities in question, or of business enterprises’ involvement in them.” One senses that an opportunity might have gone begging there.

The response from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was one deviation and re-attribution. The UN Human Rights Council, he charged, “is a biased and uninfluential body.” Rather than dealing with human rights “this body is trying to blacken Israel’s name. We reject any such attempt in the strongest terms and with disgust.”

Despite dismissing the Human Rights Council as uninfluential, Netanyahu took the matter seriously enough to suspend ties with the UN Commissioner for Human Rights. The basis for doing so had nothing to do with addressing any criteria of human rights, but whether companies would be protected in conducting their business. Commissioner Michelle Bachelet’s office, Foreign Minister Israel Katz accused, had fallen into the service of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement.

In a statement on the issue, Katz was keen to take a principled stance. The Human Rights Council was ignorant of human rights. “Since its establishment, the Council has not taken a single meaningful step towards the preservation of human rights, but has rather served to protect some of the most discriminatory regimes in the world.” The Commissioner had “wasted an opportunity to preserve the dignity of the UN ad salvage what was left of the Council and the Commission’s integrity.”

President Reuven Rivlin, as if to prove the point made by special rapporteur Lynk, read out the names of those Israeli companies that had made the list in an address from his Jerusalem residence, calling them “patriots who contribute to Israeli society, to economy and to peace.”

Israel’s Strategic Affairs Minister Gilad Erdan even went so far as to claim that such lists violated the rights of those subjects living under occupation. In the language befitting a colonial governor’s reproach to an independence activist, Erdan suggested that the UN publication “will hurt the livelihoods of thousands of Palestinians who coexist and cooperate with Israelis on a daily basis in Judea and Samaria.”

Had Netanyahu simply claimed to be a Friedmanite, that might have made some brutal, if shallow sense. But as occupations, territorial consolidation and Israeli identity remain ideological and religious matters, ethics becomes a matter of observance and abuse. Occupations and matters of conquest tend to be disturbingly moral pursuits, pursued fanatically and with lethal resolve. Best keep corporations on your side, if that is the case.

Dr. Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at SelwynCollege, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
Top Scoops Headlines

 

Gordon Campbell: On The Use Of Existing Drugs To Reduce The Effects Of Coronavirus

So now, we’re all getting up to speed with the travel bans, the rigorous handwashing and drying, the social distancing, and the avoidance of public transport wherever possible. Right. At a wider level…so far, the public health system has ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Oil Market And Regulation Crusades

Safe to say, Vladimir Putin did not expect the response he has received amidships from the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia. Earlier, Russia chose to walk away from the OPEC talks in Vienna that were aimed at reaching an agreement on how to reduce world oil production (and protect oil prices) in the light of the fall in demand being caused by the coronavirus. No doubt, Russia and its allies in the US shale industry probably glimpsed an opportunity to undercut OPEC and seize some of its customers. Bad move. In reply, Saudi Arabia has smashed the oil market by hugely ramping up production, signing up customers and drastically cutting the oil price in a fashion designed to knock Russia and other oil suppliers right out of contention. More>>

Gordon Campbell: On 22 Short Takes About Super Tuesday

With obvious apologies to the Simpsons….Here’s my 22 short takes on the 14 Super Tuesday primaries that combined yesterday to produce a common narrative –Bernie Sanders NOT running away with the nomination, Joe Biden coming back from the dead, and the really, really rich guy proving to be really, really bad at politics. In the months ahead, it will be fascinating to see if the real Joe Biden can live up to the idea of Joe Biden that people voted for yesterday – namely, the wise old guy who can save the country from the political extremism of the right and the left... More>>

Gordon Campbell On Shane Jones: A Liability No-One Needs To Bear

New Zealand First has needed a diversion after weeks of bad coverage over its dodgy handling of donations, but it really, really doesn’t need what Shane Jones has chosen to provide. According to Jones, New Zealand has ... More>>

Binoy Kampmark: Strong Man Legacies: Burying Mubarak

Reviled strongmen of one era are often the celebrated ones of others. Citizens otherwise tormented find that replacements are poor, in some cases even crueller, than the original artefact. Such strongmen also serve as ideal alibis for rehabilitation ... More>>

Caitlin Johnstone: Humanity Is Making A Very Important Choice When It Comes To Assange

The propagandists have all gone dead silent on the WikiLeaks founder they previously were smearing with relentless viciousness, because they no longer have an argument. The facts are all in, and yes, it turns out the US government is certainly and undeniably working to exploit legal loopholes to imprison a journalist for exposing its war crimes. That is happening, and there is no justifying it... More>>

Gail Duncan: Reframing Welfare Report

Michael Joseph Savage, the architect of the 1938 Social Security Act, wouldn’t recognise today’s Social Security Act as having anything to do with the kind, cooperative, caring society he envisioned 80 years ago. Instead society in 2020 has been reduced ... More>>


Gordon Campbell: On The Addiction To Chinese Student Fees

Last week, Australian PM Scott Morrison extended its ban on foreign visitors from or passing through from mainland China – including Chinese students - for a third week. New Zealand has dutifully followed suit, with our travel ban ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Coronavirus, And The Iowa Debacle

As Bloomberg says, the coronavirus shutdown is creating the world’s biggest work-from-home experiment. On the upside, the mortality rate with the current outbreak is lower than with SARS in 2003, but (for a number of reasons) the economic impact this time ... More>>

Gordon Campbell: On Dodging A Bullet Over The Transport Cost Over-Runs

As New Zealand gears up to begin its $6.8 billion programme of large scale roading projects all around the country, we should be aware of this morning’s sobering headlines from New South Wales, where the cost overruns on major transport projects ... More>>


 
 
 
 
 


 
 
 
  • PublicAddress
  • Pundit
  • Kiwiblog