The United Nations and BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions): Modern Antisemitism

UN Special Rapporteur
on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967

Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967


To the UN Human Rights Council
  • March 16, 2017: Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Michael Lynk, A/HRC/34/70

    "4. The present report focuses on the human rights and humanitarian law violations committed by Israel... The mandate of the Special Rapporteur thus focuses on the responsibilities of the occupying Power, although he notes that human rights violations by any State party or non-state actors are deplorable and will only hinder the prospects for peace.
    55. The Knesset has recently been considering several proposed bills described below which aim to further restrict the social and political space for Israeli human rights organizations that work on issues dealing with the occupation. A list of these proposed statutes would include the following:

    56. A bill, proposed by members of the governing coalition, that would eliminate the tax benefits for those Israeli residents who donate to any Israeli NGO that 'releases statements accusing the State of Israel of committing war crimes' and 'any institution that takes part in calls for a boycott of the State of Israel'...
    60. In early March 2017, the Knesset enacted legislation that would deny an entry visa or residency permit to any non-citizen if the person has worked for an organization that has issued a public call to boycott the State of Israel or has agreed to participate in such a boycott. This would include anyone who focuses their boycott call only on the Israel settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. This legislation appears to be the formalization of an earlier policy announced in August 2016 by the Israeli Minister of Public Security, Gi'lad Erdan, to deport international human rights defenders who support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and to prevent others from entering the country. In December 2016, Dr. Isabel Apawo Phiri, a Malawi citizen who serves as the World Council of Churches Associate General Secretary, was denied entry and deported after arriving at Ben Gurion International Airport. Israeli authorities asserted that the denial of entry was due to her organization's alleged support for and involvement with the BDS Movement...

    61. Palestinian human rights organizations have stated that these Knesset statutes and proposed bills adversely affect them as well. Palestinian human rights defenders working in occupied East Jerusalem invariably possess an Israeli residency permit, which they fear may be revoked by the Israeli Ministry of the Interior on the grounds that they have breached their loyalty to the State of Israel for advocating human rights issues, supporting boycotts or encouraging the acknowledgment of the 1947-49 Nakba... The impact is also being felt by Palestinian human rights defenders living in Israel on residency permits, such as Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of the BDS movement. Restrictions on his international travel were temporarily imposed in April 2016, just after the Israeli Intelligence and Transportation Minister, Yisrael Katz, had called for the 'targeted civil elimination' of BDS leaders with the help of Israeli intelligence."

  • January 22, 2015: Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Makarim Wibisono, A/HRC/28/78

    "Indeed, there is a long list of pressing human rights issues that merit attention: from the expansion of settlements to settler violence; discriminatory policies in East Jerusalem; and the involvement of businesses in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, to name but a few."

  • January 13, 2014: Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Richard Falk, A/HRC/25/67

    "5. Corporate responsibility. Recent reports have underscored the potential implications for corporations and financial institutions that engage with and profit from Israeli settlements. The establishment and continued development of settlements is in violation of article 49(6) of the Fourth Geneva Convention, an assessment reinforced by the International Court of Justice in its advisory opinion of 2004 on the wall. Such an initiative has tried at all times to proceed cooperatively with the economic actors involved, and has acknowledged instances of compliance with international law and relevant United Nations guidelines and the encouraging recent indication of governmental and European Union reinforcement of these emergent obligations. This trend also converges with and reinforces the social mobilization of civil society in a variety of initiatives, especially the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign.
    Corporate complicity in international crimes

    39. Over the past two years, the Special Rapporteur focused attention on companies involved in business and financial activities related to the Israeli settlement enterprise as well as the possibility of corporate complicity in international crimes related to Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

    40. The effort to focus on business activities in the settlements was made, in part, to bring a measure of accountability with respect to the emergent human rights obligations of companies in conformity with international law and the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. The Special Rapporteur's intention was not only to provide a sound legal basis upon which to assess the complicity of businesses in international crimes related to the settlements, but also to clearly set out the risks and associated costs in terms of reputation, as well as the potential legal consequences of doing business in the settlements.

    41. The responses received from some of the 13 companies analysed in an earlier report (A/67/379) were mixed. Nonetheless, there have been a number of recent developments in relation to the involvement of other businesses involved in the settlements to indicate that public pressure and media attention does bring some ethical dividends, and has encouraged Governments to be more vigilant.

    42. Some positive developments in this regard include Royal HaskoningDHV, a Dutch company, which announced in September 2013 its decision to terminate a contract with the Jerusalem Municipality to build a wastewater treatment plant in East Jerusalem. In December, Vitens, a Dutch water utility company, decided to cut its ties with Mekorot, the Israeli national water company, citing concerns in relation to the adherence of international laws. Earlier, in August 2013, the Swedish-Norwegian bank Nordea excluded Cemex, one of the companies taken up in the Special Rapporteur's earlier report, from its investment portfolio, due to its extraction of non-renewable natural resources from occupied Palestine. Such examples should lead the way for more countries and companies to follow suit, as well as alerting Governments to their responsibility to urge companies subject to their authority to act in accordance with international law.

    43. While due diligence on the part of businesses is an inherent aspect of corporate responsibility, Governments also have the obligation, as noted by the fact-finding mission on settlements, to take measures to ensure that they do not recognize an unlawful situation arising from the illegal activities of Israel. In this regard, the European Union guidelines which establish that all agreements between Israel and the European Union for grants, prizes and financial instruments funded by the European Union must now unequivocally and explicitly indicate their inapplicability to the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 represents a step in the right direction.

    44. The Special Rapporteur is also encouraged by the recent issuance by the Government of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland of guidelines for businesses, which for the first time outline the risks of trading with Israeli settlements, and specifically warn of the legal and economic risks stemming from the fact that the Israeli settlements, according to international law, are built on occupied land and are not recognized as a legitimate part of the territory of Israel.

    Trade with the settlements

    45. The diligence shown by the European Union and some of its Member States regarding the responsibility of businesses operating in occupied Palestine naturally leads to the following question: Are the same human rights standards applied by countries when it comes to trade relations with the settlements? If the statements issued by the European Union and the United States protesting the expansion of settlements reiterate their illegality and illegitimacy, then steps should be taken to ensure that related actions also reflect a genuine commitment to human rights and respect for international law, for example by ceasing trade with the settlements starting with a ban on imports of settlement produce.

    46. While produce originating in the Israeli settlements is not entitled to benefit from preferential tariff treatment under the European Union-Israel Association Agreement, fresh agricultural produce exported from the settlements - but falsely labelled as "made in Israel" - can still be found on many supermarket shelves across the European Union due to the voluntary nature of labelling requirements. Considering the fact that the European Union remains one of the most important trading partners for the settlements, with annual exports worth $300 million, a ban on settlement produce would have a significant impact. It should also not be forgotten that trade with settlements is linked to the violation of human rights with respect to Palestinian communities denied access to fertile agricultural land, water and other natural resources.

    47. So long as illegal settlements are supported through trade, statements protesting the expansion of settlements from the main trading partners of Israel will have little resonance on the ground, and third party States will continue to be associated with the violation of human rights in occupied Palestine.
    81. In this, his final report, the Special Rapporteur takes the opportunity to reiterate some past recommendations and add several new ones, namely that:
    (d) The international community comprehensively investigate the business activities of companies and financial institutions registered in their own respective countries, which profit from the settlements of Israel and other unlawful Israeli activities, and take appropriate action to end such practices and ensure appropriate reparation for affected Palestinians. Member States should consider imposing a ban on imports of settlement produce;

    (e) Future investigations consider whether other foreign corporate connections with unlawful occupation policies additional to settlements (e.g. separation wall, Gaza blockade, house demolitions, excessive use of force) should not be also deemed "problematic" under international law, and treated in a manner analogous to the recommendations pertaining to settlements;..."
  • September 16, 2013: Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Richard Falk, A/HRC/23/21

    "Businesses that profit from Israeli settlements

    50. In his report submitted to the General Assembly in October 2012, the Special Rapporteur focused attention on business enterprises that profit from Israeli settlements. A central part of the report was the highlighting of a selection of businesses that had engaged in profit-making operations in relation to Israeli settlements. The Special Rapporteur noted his commitment to seeking clarification from these businesses and, in this respect, wishes to mention briefly the responses received from them. Additional recent developments in relation to businesses that profit from Israeli settlements are discussed thereafter.

    51. Of the 13 businesses highlighted in the above-mentioned report, responses were received from Assa Abloy, Cemex, Dexia, G4S, Motorola and Volvo. No reply was received from Ahava, Caterpillar, Elbit Systems, Hewlett-Packard, Mehadrin, the Riwal Holding Group and Veolia Environment. It is disappointing that the latter six businesses decided that it was not necessary to respond to allegations of serious human rights and international humanitarian law abuses and violations. Hewlett-Packard and Veolia Environment did not respond despite the fact that they are signatories to the Global Compact, which implies a good faith commitment to adhere to the guidelines for corporate behaviour.
    55. International attention is increasingly drawn to the activities of Israeli and international business enterprises involved in profit-making in occupied Palestine. The fact-finding mission mandated by the Human Rights Council to investigate Israeli settlements denoted a range of potential violations that stem from such activities.The fact-finding mission concluded that private entities had enabled, facilitated and profited from the construction and growth of the settlements, either directly or indirectly, and recommended that private companies assess the human rights impact of their activities, and take all necessary steps, including by terminating their business interests in the settlements, to ensure they did not have an adverse impact on the human rights of the Palestinian people. It also recommended that the Working Group on Business and Human Rights be seized of the matter.

    56. The case for action against businesses profiting from the Israeli occupation has been strengthened by recent reports from a wide range of actors. A report compiled by 22 major international human rights and humanitarian organizations made explicit links between the settlements, businesses and Israel's critical trade with Europe. A leading Palestinian human rights organization, Al-Haq, reported on the responsibility of States members of the European Union for the huge settlement produce industry. Palestinian farming and civil society organizations collectively reported on the extent to which international trade with Israeli agricultural companies is destroying Palestinian agriculture. A confidential report by the European Union heads of mission to Jerusalem contained recommendations to ensure that European consumers are not misled into purchasing settlement products that are labelled as originating from Israel. In that report, the heads of mission also called for European Union citizens and companies to be informed of the financial and legal risks involved in purchasing property or providing services in Israeli settlements. Against this backdrop, according to media reports, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the European Union, Catherine Ashton, wrote to the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of the European Union to call for enhanced efforts by Member States to enforce fully and effectively European Union labelling legislation vis--vis Israel. It is in this context of increasing awareness that the Special Rapporteur will continue to report on businesses that profit from Israel's prolonged occupation of Palestine.

    57. The Special Rapporteur recommends that:
    (h) The international community investigate the activities of businesses that profit from Israel's settlements, take appropriate action to end any activities in occupied Palestine and ensure appropriate reparation for Palestinians affected;..."
  • May 25, 2012: Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Richard Falk, A/HRC/20/32

    "5. Several general conclusions emerged from meetings held in the course of the mission, especially those with members of the refugee communities, that have significant implications relating to the protection of the human rights of Palestinians living under occupation:
    (d) Widespread support for reliance on various forms of non-violence as the most effective way to move the Palestinian struggle forward and, in this regard, significant support for civil society movements leading such initiatives, including reliance on the BDS campaign (boycott, divestment, and sanctions), pursuit of judicial remedies under universal jurisdiction in relation to alleged international crimes of Israeli political and military leaders, and efforts of humanitarian NGOs to challenge the blockade of Gaza;"
  • June 7, 2010: Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Richard Falk, A/HRC/13/53/Rev.1

    "Finally, the report welcomes a civil society-led campaign to boycott, divest from and sanction Israel for its occupation of Palestinian territories.
    Boycotts, divestments and sanctions

    38. Operation Cast Lead shocked the conscience of humanity, giving rise to feelings of solidarity around the world with the ordeal and struggle of the Palestinian people. These feelings were intensified by the awareness that neither the neighbouring States nor the United Nations, nor its most powerful Member States, were willing or able to protect the Palestinian people and uphold their rights. The spectacle of a people under siege, as has been the case now for over 30 months in the Gaza Strip, has deepened this sense that there exists some responsibility for people everywhere to take appropriate, non-violent action. Civil society's global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, aimed at bringing non-violent economic and social pressure to bear to end the Israeli occupation, is the outgrowth of these sentiments, and it has been expanding at a rapid rate during the last few years. This sense of an anti-occupation movement of worldwide scope has come to resemble in many respects the anti-apartheid movement that made important contributions to the transformation of the political climate in South Africa in the late 1980s.

    39. The boycott dimension of BDS takes many forms. For example, the boycott in Europe of products produced by Israeli settlements; Britain has now allowed stores to put stickers on food and other products reading "Israeli settlement produce". Soccer games and other athletic events involving Israel have been cancelled or protests mounted. Similar efforts have been made with respect to academic and cultural interaction. Artists and performers have been asked to refuse invitations from Israel, or at least to contribute the proceeds of a performance to Palestinian relief. Stores and companies around the world have been boycotted based on their dealings for profit in the OPT. On the divestment front, contracts have been terminated or bids not made. In addition, a growing number of churches and universities are extending their efforts to invest in a spirit of social responsibility, and are excluding companies that are perceived to be profiting from the Israeli occupation. Individuals and NGOs have come out in support of BDS in increasing numbers. It is a central battleground in the legitimacy war being waged by and on behalf of Palestinians. It is also making use of persuasive and coercive non-violent means to secure the human rights of Palestinians living under oppressive and unlawful conditions of occupation that the actions of diplomacy or the authority of the organized international community seem unable to correct. BDS represents the mobilized efforts of global civil society to replace a regime of force with the rule of law in relation to the OPT.


    40. The following recommendations drawn from the body of the report are emphasized as matters of urgency:
    (e) Consideration should be given to the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions campaign as a means of implementing human rights, including the right of self-determination, and guidelines should be provided for such a campaign."
To the UN General Assembly
  • October 27, 2017: Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Michael Lynk, A/72/556

    "65. A determination that Israel's role as occupant is now illegal would serve several significant purposes. First, it would encourage member states to take all reasonable steps to prevent or discourage national institutions, organizations and corporations within their jurisdiction from engaging in activities that would invest in, or sustain, the occupation. Second, it would encourage national and international courts to apply the appropriate laws within their jurisdiction that would prevent or discourage cooperation with entities that invest in, or sustain, the occupation. Third, it would invite the international community to review its various forms of cooperation with the occupying power as long as it continues to administer the occupation unlawfully.
    V. Recommendations
    67. The Special Rapporteur also recommends that the United Nations General Assembly:
    (c) Consider commissioning a legal study on the ways and means that UN Member States can and must fulfill their obligations and duties to ensure respect for international law, including the duty of non-recognition, the duty to cooperate to bring to an end a wrongful situation and the duty to investigate and prosecute grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions...
  • September 19, 2012: Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Richard Falk, A/67/379

    "88. The failure to bring the occupation to an end after 45 years creates an augmented international responsibility to uphold the human rights of the Palestinian people, who in practice live without the protection of the rule of law. In this context, the Special Rapporteur recalls that the General Assembly, as early as 1982, called on Member States to apply economic sanctions against the State of Israel for its unlawful settlement activities.
    91. The Special Rapporteur further concludes that all companies that operate in or otherwise have dealings with Israeli settlements should be boycotted, until such time as they bring their operations fully into line with international human rights standards and practice. In this regard, civil society efforts to pursue the implementation of the Guiding Principles establish a distinctive space between voluntary and obligatory action in the struggle to protect persons vulnerable to human rights abuse.
    95. The Special Rapporteur calls on the businesses highlighted in this report, as a matter of urgency, to take transparent action to comply with the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the Global Compact and relevant international laws and standards, with respect to their activities connected with the Government of Israel and its settlements and wall in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. This should include, as a first step, immediately suspending all operations, including the supply of products and services, which aid in the establishment or maintenance of Israeli settlements.
    98. The Special Rapporteur calls on civil society to actively pursue legal and political redress against non-complying businesses, where necessary in their own national legal and political frameworks, especially where allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity can be substantiated in relation to settlement activities.
    99. The Special Rapporteur calls on civil society to vigorously pursue initiatives to boycott, divest and sanction the businesses highlighted in this report, within their own national contexts, until such time as they bring their policies and practices into line with international laws and standards, as well as the Global Compact."
  • August 30, 2010: Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Richard Falk, A/65/331

    "17. ...At the same time, there are many indications of a worldwide surge of support for Palestinian solidarity efforts, including a rapidly expanding boycott, divestment, and sanctions campaign. Comparisons have been made with increasing frequency to the anti-apartheid campaign of the 1980s and early 1990s, which seemed to influence decisively the balance of thinking within South Africa as to how to resolve the conflict over constitutionalism and racism in the country.
    22. The United Nations should lend its support to the worldwide boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, so long as Israel unlawfully occupies Palestinian territories, and the United Nations should endorse a non-violent "legitimacy war" as an alternative to both failed peace negotiations and armed struggle, as the best available means of promoting the rights of the civilian population of the occupied Palestinian territory, as specified by international humanitarian law."


  • October 24, 2018: Statement by Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, U.N. General Assembly Third Committee

    "Other issues I would raise for the consideration of the delegates would have to do with the absolute prohibition of the import of settlement goods from Israel. That there should be studies leading to the possibility of penalties on companies who invest in or financially support business activities in the occupied Palestinian territory that help to entrench and deepen the occupation. It also may mean the cutting off of relationships with those banks that wind up participating in encouraging and financing business activity that sustains and deepens the occupation as well."
  • October 27, 2017: Statement by Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, U.N. General Assembly Third Committee

    "Israel's role as occupant has crossed the red line into illegality...What are the implications of a finding of illegality? Using the precedent of what occurred in 1971 with the illegality of South Africa...limit trade and eventually to avoid investment or any other kind of recognition or non-cooperation... [E]nsure a respect for international law, including the duty of non-recognition..."
  • October 27, 2017: Statement by Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Press conference

    "I suggest the first step is for the United Nations to investigate whether they agree with my legal analysis that Israel is now an illegal occupant. If it finds it is an illegal occupant, then I think the United Nations is in a position either through asking for an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice and through its own internal mechanisms to begin to develop a range of successively more important or more imposing measures, sanctions, against Israel as long as it remains in illegal occupation of the territories... Just remember this, you know if you compare-and the only reason I'm doing this comparison is for a very specific reason, because Israel is not North Korea. But if there are sanctions against North Korea, North Korea actually has very little to do in terms of trade with the outside world. Israel is very dependent upon trade with the outside world. It's very dependent upon its market in the United States. It's very dependent upon its market with Europe. If there was an understanding that all of a sudden Israelis wanting to travel abroad needed to have visas; if all of a sudden Israel wasn't going to get preferential trading agreements with the EU; if all of a sudden the many and multitude of forms of military, or economic cooperation, or academic cooperation with Israel were now going to come to an end as long as Israel continued that, I think you'd begin to see a sea change in the attitude of ordinary Israelis and in the attitude of the Israeli government with respect to that. But that has to happen."
  • February 3, 2017: Statement by Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Press release

    "United Nations Special Rapporteur Michael Lynk has called on the United Nations Security Council and the General Assembly to explore effective diplomatic and political measures to ensure Israeli compliance with Security Council resolution 2334, which affirms that all Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory constitute a flagrant violation of international law... 'If Israel understands that the international community will take no meaningful steps to enforce the Council's resolution, it will continue to intensify its settlement project undeterred,' the Rapporteur warned. 'And if the international community intends to preserve what remains of a viable two-state solution, it must not assume that resolutions, critical statements and international conferences alone will change state behaviour in these circumstances,' he underscored..."
  • June 10, 2013: Statement by Richard Falk, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, UN Human Rights Council, 23rd session, Agenda item 7

    "Last October my report to the General Assembly raised concerns regarding Israeli and multinational businesses that profit from Israel's settlement enterprise. My current report updates developments in this area and calls for further investigation into such business activities. I intend to give additional attention to such business activities in future reports."

  • December 27, 2009: Statement by Richard Falk, Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, on the first anniversary of the Gaza war

    "On the first anniversary of the Gaza war, Falk also describes the initiatives of civil society such as the Free Gaza March and the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign as 'the only meaningful current challenge to Israel's violations of its obligations as the Occupying Power of the Gaza Strip under the Geneva Conventions and the United Nations Charter.'"