The following communication was sent to CSR leaders at the 300 companies in JLens' Jewish Advocacy Strategy. These companies represent the most influential US public companies.
Dear Corporate Social Responsibility & Investor Relations colleagues:
I am writing on behalf of our investors to share a disturbing development about which you – and the entire CSR community – should be made aware. On February 12, 2020, the United Nations Human Rights Council ("UNHRC") released a blacklist of companies doing business in Israel. The report represents the latest effort by the UNHRC to single out Israel for opprobrium. As the Jewish community’s representative in the responsible investing arena, JLens strongly objects to the publication of the blacklist.
The blacklist should be seen within the context of a broader effort to use the socially responsible investing/CSR community as the medium for a politicized effort to delegitimize Israel. Data used to support the blacklist originates from the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) campaign, which encourages investors and companies to divest from ties with Israel as part of its effort to castigate Israel in the economic arena. The ultimate goal of the BDS campaign is the elimination of the Jewish state, not peaceful coexistence for Israelis and Palestinians. For this reason, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 398-17 to condemn the BDS campaign last year. Moreover, in response to the BDS campaign, many US states have passed laws against boycotts and divestments aimed at Israel.
The blacklist is the latest example of the UNHRC’s anti-Israel obsession. Over its first decade, the UNHRC condemned Israel 62 times, more than it has condemned all other nations in the world combined. In June 2007, the UNHRC voted to make Israel’s actions—and no other country’s actions—a permanent item on the Council’s agenda. Ironically--and tellingly--Resolution 31/36, which authorized the creation of the blacklist, was sponsored and supported by some of the world’s leading human rights violators, including Sudan, Russia, Venezuela, China, Qatar, Cuba, and Libya. The UNHRC’s approach towards Israel has become such a distortion of its mandate that the United States withdrew from the UNHRC in 2018, labeling it “a cesspool of political bias.”
JLens, as a responsible investing organization, supports investor concern for business and human rights. But this blacklist, and the BDS campaign as a whole, seeks to manipulate the infrastructure and good intentions of the SRI and CSR fields to pursue a political attack on Israel. They aspire to manufacture sufficient cost and controversy for investors and businesses that they will sever their ties to Israeli businesses. I am writing to you now to make sure they do not succeed. Divestment in this case is discriminatory, reinforcing the ways the UNHRC has singled out Israel for unique opprobrium. And if this campaign succeeds, it will be both Palestinians and Israelis whose lives will suffer the economic consequences of businesses withdrawing from the region.
Rather than promoting a politicized divestment from one side of a two-sided conflict, businesses should operate as forces for good and lay the economic groundwork for peace in areas of conflict. We strongly encourage you to maintain and even expand any economic ties to Israel you presently have. I welcome the opportunity to speak with you further on this topic.
Rabbi Joshua Ratner
Director of Advocacy
JLens Investor Network