SOMO welcomes the database of companies with links to illegal Israeli settlements published by the United Nations on 12 February. Companies play an important role in the maintenance of illegal Israeli settlements. By doing business with these settlements or being active there, they become involved in or profit from violations of the rights of the Palestinian population.

The list of 112 companies is important for more transparency in production chains. It makes it easier to hold companies accountable and sends out an important international political signal of disapproval.

SOMO and partner organisations have been asking the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) for more than three years to make this database public. By releasing it, the OHCHR confirms its independence and impartiality in the execution of its mandates, despite the great pressure exerted on the agency not to publish the list.

That this major step towards transparency is desperately needed is evident from the research which SOMO has carried out in recent years into the import of fruit and vegetables from illegal Israeli settlements into the Netherlands. SOMO tried to ascertain the extent of these imports. To no avail. In the search, SOMO asked Dutch supermarkets, Dutch Customs and Statistics Netherlands in vain for figures on the import of fruit and vegetables from Israel and the importers and exporters involved.

Pauline Overeem (SOMO): “Products from occupied territories have been plundered. They are the direct result of human rights violations, such as the expulsion of Palestinian citizens from their land. Now it is easier to identify companies involved in trade with occupied territories and hold them to account”.

The list is a nice start. Not all companies known to be active in the occupied territories are included. For example, the German multinational HeidelbergCement, about which SOMO published in February, is missing.