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Danwatch: Major EU pension funds invest billions in businesses linked to Israeli settlements

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Five of Europe’s largest pension funds have — against EU directives — invested up to €7.5 billion ($8.09 billion) in businesses linked to illegal Israeli settlements, Danish investigative news team Danwatch, reported on Tuesday.

In July, the EU released new guidelines that state that any Israeli entity “seeking funding from or cooperation with the EU will have to submit a declaration stating that the entity has no direct or indirect links to the West Bank, East Jerusalem or the Golan Heights,” Haaretz reported.

According to the Danwatch report, the Government Pension Fund of Norway, Dutch government pension fund ABP, Dutch pension fund PFZW, Danish pension plan ATP, and Swedish pension fund Alecta have a total of €7.5 billion invested in 36 Israeli and international publicly-traded companies, “most of which have long been under public scrutiny because of their activities in the occupied Palestinian territories.”

The investments, linked to illegal Israeli settlements, reportedly do not comply with the guideliness, according to Danwatch’s documentation.

Of the five, the Government Pension Fund of Norway (SPU), has the largest investment, which amounts to €5.2 billion ($5.6 billion).

In 2015, before the guideline change, the Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees and Norwegian People’s Aid released a report, which found that SPU had invested NOK 64.1 billion ($7.8 billion) in 41 companies that contribute “to the violations of international law and human rights in Palestine.”

At the time of publication, it was unclear whether the amount invested in companies linked to illegal Israeli settlements had decreased since the release of the report, or if Danwatch had not included some of the 41 companies listed by Norwegian Municipal and People’s Aid report.

Of the 41 companies SPU had been invested in at the time of the 2015 report, 13 were involved in “especially severe violations of law that contravene the SPU guidelines.”

The 13 companies were identified as Heidelberg Cement, Cemex, Hewlett-Packard, Motorola, Alstom, Caterpillar, G4S, Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, Dexia Group, First International Bank of Israel, Israel Discount Bank and Mizrahi Tefahot Bank.

According to a Ma’an News report in 2009, which also reported on SPU’s investment links to Israeli settlement, the ethical guidelines of the SPU “prohibit any investments in unethical areas, or that may be in contradiction with human rights, gross corruption or severe environmental damages.”

While the United Nations does not consider business links between member states and Israeli settlements to be illegal, it does consider Israeli settlements illegal under international law and considers investors to be “obliged to carry out enhanced due diligence” and show that “their activities do not contribute to negative effects on human rights.”

In November, the European Council on Foreign Relations released a report that detailed the advisories for 18 EU member state, which warned their businesses of “the legal, financial and reputational consequences they could expose themselves to in dealings with Israeli settlement entities.”

Norway was not on the list of countries that released advisories, however Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden were.

Meanwhile, also in November, the Jerusalem Post quoted the Norwegian Ambassador to Israel, Jon Hanssen-Bauer, as expressing that the current Norwegian government is looking to have “a much wider horizon” when it comes to Israel.

“With the current government, we are trying to build up trade and bilateral relationships. We are active in the peace process, we do work together with Israel on that, but we are also trying have a much wider horizon,” he added, according to the Jpost report. It was not clear if the ambassador referred at all to Israeli settlements specifically.

Israel has continuously come under fire for its settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory, which is considered illegal under international law. In December, The UN Security Council voted in favor of a resolution that demanded Israel halt its settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory.

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) is a Palestinian-led movement which urges companies, countries and individuals to boycott Israel and its illegal settlements, financially, culturally and academically.

Due to its success in recent years, various companies have divested from Israel and its settlements. Israeli authorities consider the international campaign to be anti-semitic, and the government is currently attempting to ban any individuals supporting the campaign from entering both Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory.

Sheren Khalel

Sheren Khalel is a freelance multimedia journalist who works out of Israel, Palestine and Jordan. She focuses on human rights, women's issues and the Palestine/Israel conflict. Khalel formerly worked for Ma'an News Agency in Bethlehem, and is currently based in Ramallah and Jerusalem. You can follow her on Twitter at @Sherenk.

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16 Responses

  1. annie on January 31, 2017, 4:40 pm

    netanyahu just announced they approved 3000 more illegal settlement units, not including the announcement of 2500 last week.

    Liberman and Netanyahu announce the construction of more than 3,000 new housing units in Judea and Samaria.

    Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman and Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Tuesday evening announced the construction of more than 3,000 new housing units in Judea and Samaria.

    Of the new units, 2,000 will be marketed immediately, according to an announcement from the Defense Ministry.

    “The decision comes as part of the return to normal life in Judea and Samaria and in order to provide a real answer to living and housing needs,” the statement said, adding that Tuesday’s announcement is in addition to the 2,500 units announced last week.

    • Kay24 on February 1, 2017, 1:44 am

      Filthy crooks. While the world is staggering, and focused, at Drumpfs blunders and racist policies, the zionist criminals try to sneak in thousands more squatter abodes. How despicable, and how typical.

  2. just on January 31, 2017, 5:29 pm

    Holy moly! This is explosive, imho. Danwatch deserves major kudos for their report. Many thanks for this article, Sheren.

    I’m gnashing my poor teeth, Annie. Israel needs to be harshly sanctioned~ YESTERDAY!

  3. HarryLaw on January 31, 2017, 5:42 pm

    Norway is not a member of the European Union, however it is a part of the European Economic Area, which does not exempt it from recent UNSC Resolutions or other ethical or business considerations. The other pension funds should be put under pressure from the beneficiaries of the fund since they are directly at risk. Here is what the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in conjunction with the Dept of Trade said when implementing EU guide lines on trade with the settlements…
    “Financial transactions, investments, purchases, procurement’s as well as other economic activities (including in services like tourism) in Israeli settlements or benefiting Israeli settlements, entail 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 Israel’s territory. This may result in disputed titles to the land, water, mineral or other natural resources which might be the subject of purchase or investment. EU citizens and businesses should also be aware of the potential reputational implications of getting involved in economic and financial activities in settlements, as well as possible abuses of the rights of individuals. Those contemplating any economic or financial involvement in settlements should seek appropriate legal advice.–3
    That legal advice should warn the pension fund about one of the companies involved Heidelberg Cement, which excavates sand and gravel from quarries in the West Bank [in effect stolen property]. They could be subject to substantial reparations in the near future. If I was a pension fund beneficiary I would demand a stop to this investment.

  4. HarryLaw on January 31, 2017, 6:08 pm

    It is the legal consensus that under the Hague Regulations Article 55 it is impermissible to use or harm the capital of the property, which is under a sort of trust, therefore… “The occupying State shall be regarded only as administrator and usufructuary of public buildings, real estate, forests, and agricultural estates belonging to the hostile State, and situated in the occupied country. It must safeguard the capital of these properties, and administer them in accordance with the rules of usufruct”. see also Democratic Republic of Congo v Uganda [ICJ]

    • oldgeezer on January 31, 2017, 7:01 pm

      The Palestinians need to sue a few of these theives. I guess the reward would vary greatly depending upon tbe jurisdiction but the fact they know the law and are wilfully breaking has the potential for substantial rewards. One or two successes will bring corporations in line with the law quickly.

      • JWalters on February 1, 2017, 8:18 pm

        A tsunami of lawsuits!

    • HarryLaw on January 31, 2017, 8:26 pm

      UNSC Resolution 1483 in 2003 set out how the UK/US coalition must use immovable minerals such as Iraqi oil [still in the ground, as opposed to extracted oil already in tanks] under article 55 of the Hague Regulations, similar to the sand and gravel mentioned in my comment above.
      UNSC Resolution 1483 section 20. Decides
      “That all export sales of petroleum, petroleum products, and
      natural gas from Iraq following the date of the adoption of this resolution shall be
      made consistent with prevailing international market best practices, to be audited by
      independent public accountants reporting to the International Advisory and
      Monitoring Board referred to in paragraph 12 above in order to ensure transparency,
      decides further
      that, except as provided in paragraph 21 below, all proceeds
      from such sales shall be deposited into the Development Fund for Iraq until such
      time as an internationally recognized, representative government of Iraq is properly

      • oldgeezer on January 31, 2017, 9:07 pm


        That was wonderful and fine except that for at least three years after the invasion the meters used to measure extraction were magically unavailable to buy, or so it was claimed, and therefore there is no record of how much oil was taken.

        I don’t know how many more years that situation went on. Ut is unlikely the US/UK or Iraqui population benefitted.

      • pabelmont on February 1, 2017, 10:54 am

        There were no meters? Oh dear! Taking unmeasured oil from trust property? Right out of the USA’s playbook for defrauding Native Americans from whose lands oil was taken for many years without being paid for. See:

  5. on January 31, 2017, 6:56 pm

    “Israeli authorities consider the international [boycott] campaign to be anti-semitic….”

    Hardly. But if it’s worked a million times before….

  6. HarryLaw on February 1, 2017, 5:00 am

    The bottom line is that Pension fund investors have obligations to their pension fund contributors “Fiduciary obligations exist to ensure that those who manage other people’s money act responsibly in the interests of savers (clients or beneficiaries), rather than serving their own interests. The nature of the fiduciary relationship means that a fiduciary is expected to be loyal to the person to whom he or she owes the duty”. file:///C:/Users/H/AppData/Local/Temp/3.Responsibleinvestmentandfiduciaryduty-1.pdf
    Similarly the occupier has a duty [under International law] to ‘administer’ those immovable natural resources [not sell them] sand and gravel [which are owned by the Palestinians] and ensure the capital is not depleted or harmed [as per Article 55, Hague Regulations]. Reparations could be claimed [the PA has warned investors about this]. Remember Germany has paid out billions and are still doing so in reparations to Jewish owned businesses and other misappropriated property during WW2.

    • JWalters on February 1, 2017, 8:21 pm

      “Remember Germany has paid out billions and are still doing so in reparations to Jewish owned businesses and other misappropriated property during WW2.”

      Excellent precedent! And those thefts were even farther back in time.

  7. Ossinev on February 1, 2017, 7:51 am

    “netanyahu just announced they approved 3000 more illegal settlement units, not including the announcement of 2500 last week”

    To be fair and to balance it all out though the Amona “illegal outpost” evacuation appears to have gone ahead despite the resistance from the non terrorist non life threatening stone throwing settlers (NB when a Palestinian of any age from one to 90 throws a stone at a Jewish Israeli uniformed or otherwise it is a criminal life threatening act of terrorism,latterly ISIS inspired. When a Jewish settler throws a stone at a Palestinion or Israeli forces it is merely a passionate deeply heartfelt expression of love for their cherished homeland).

    Just listen to the hypocritical s…e being spewed out by these latter day Zionist Fascists. Truly stomach turning – particularly Livni = ” while the evacuation of a person from his home is difficult and the pain of the families understandable” = pain and difficulty for Jews only. For any evicted Palestinions = stop complaining and move to Jordan.

  8. yardoo on April 19, 2017, 2:24 pm

    Some of the biggest European pension funds and banks have responded to the activities of the Israeli banks in occupied territories by excluding them.

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