Source: Jerusalem Post, By TZVI JOFFRE AUGUST 17, 2020 13:29
While the UN has immunity in general, Shurat HaDin claims that this case is an exception as the UN violated its charter and practiced “pure racism on the basis of nationality and religion.”
The Israeli supermarket and cellular service company Rami Levy is suing the United Nations Human Rights Council for defamation after it was placed on the UNHRC’s “blacklist” of companies doing business in Jewish areas of the West Bank, Golan Heights and east Jerusalem.
The list included 112 business entities – 94 domiciled in Israel and 18 in six other countries – which it has reasonable grounds to conclude have ties with Israeli settlements. These countries include the United States, Great Britain, France, the Netherlands, Thailand and Luxembourg.
Rami Lev filed a NIS 280,000 suit through the NGO Shurat Hadin against the UNHRC. Shurat Hadin “specializes in the legal and financial war against terror.”
“The purpose of the list is to bring about an international boycott of these companies, with the companies including the supermarket chain ‘Rami Levy Hashikma Marketing’ and the cellular network ‘Rami Levy Communications’ under the ownership of businessman Rami Levy, which run operations in the West Bank,” said Shurat HaDin in a statement on Monday.
The suit, filed at the Jerusalem Magistrates Court on Monday, claims that operating in Judea and Samaria does not constitute a violation of Palestinians’ rights, and in fact does the opposite and “does good with them,” as both Jews and Palestinians are employed equally by Rami Levy.
“It can be said that the plaintiff companies improve the rights of Palestinians and their financial well-being immeasurably,” said Shurat Hadin in the suit. “Working and wage conditions that the plaintiff’s provide to their Palestinian workers are ten times better than the working conditions and wages that workers receive in the Palestinian Authority or in workplaces in its territory.”
According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, the average Palestinian worker earns an estimated salary of NIS 2,200 in the PA, while Rami Levy employees earn up to three times that.
While the UN has immunity in general meaning no lawsuits can be filed against it, Shurat HaDin claims that this case is “exceptional” as the UNHRC had “blatantly deviated” from its purpose and mission and practiced “pure racism on the basis of nationality and religion.”
The NGO found that only Jewish-owned Israeli companies were on the list, while Arab-Israeli owned companies were not included. Shurat HaDin stated that dozens of Arab-Israeli companies operate in the West Bank and provided the court with a list of 11 such companies that were not included. The NGO claimed that this shows that the UN does not enjoy immunity in this case because it is “acting in violation of the UN Charter and is practicing discrimination.”
Shurat HaDin added that the US and Israel both do define the West Bank as “disputed territory” and not “occupied territory.” The NGO stressed that, even if the UN claim that the West Bank is occupied territory is accepted, “there is no provision in international law prohibiting the establishment of a factory on ‘occupied’ land, let alone a business that satisfies the needs of the local population and the workers in it are residents of the place.”
“I believe in true coexistence,” said Rami Levy, owner of Rami Levy Hashikma Marketing. “All of the workers in our market chain are employed regardless of differences in religion, race or nationality, and are equally entitled, and even earn 3 times higher wages than the average wage in the Palestinian Authority. We are happy to serve all customers regardless of religion, race and nationality, and we will continue to do so.”
Attorney Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, President of Shurat HaDin called the blacklist a “blood libel.”
“This blacklist reflects the true image of the UN Human Rights Council, which has once again been found to be racist, dark and biased,” said Darshan-Leitner. “This council will not determine where the borders of the State of Israel will cross.”
The suit claimed that the publication of the names of the Israeli businesses on the blacklist aims solely to “harm their good names and hurt them financially through boycotts” in a number of ways, including “degrading the plaintiffs and their employees for their religion, nationality, and place of residence, and all that that entails.” Shurat HaDin argued that this constitutes a violation of Israel’s defamation law and demanded that the companies receive compensation.
Tovah Lazaroff contributed to this report.