Luxembourg Pension Fund Pulls Out Of Israeli Banks

Joining other European companies and following a recent Dutch pension fund pullout, Luxembourg thinks twice about their investments in Israel, emboldening BDS movement.
By @LesNeuhaus |
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    The Luxembourg government’s general pension fund body has decided to boycott five major Israeli banks, as well as a number of Israeli private investment firms, over ongoing construction in illegal settlements in the West Bank.

    The banks and companies targeted by the boycott are involved in the continuing development on Palestinian land considered occupied by the Israeli Defense Forces.

    A U.S. company is also being boycotted, the The Electronic Intifada reported.

    “Luxembourg’s state pension fund FDC has excluded nine major Israeli banks and firms and one US company because of their involvement in Israeli settlements and human rights violations in the occupied Palestinian territories,” The Electronic Intifada, a pro-Palestinian website, reported this week.

    “The US firm Motorola Solutions is specifically barred from inclusion in the pension fund because of its ‘association to assisting in human rights violations in occupied [Palestinian] territories.’ According to the organization Who Profits, Motorola Solutions has provided, through its Israeli subsidiary, equipment to Israeli settlements and occupation forces,” it continued.

    The move follows similar steps taken by other major financial institutions, including Dutch pensions giant PGGM and Norway’s state pension fund.

    But are the boycotts having the economic effect the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement intended?

    “In the business category are the decisions by PGGM, the Netherland’s largest pension fund management company to withdraw all its investments from Israel’s five largest banks because they have branches in the West Bank or are involved in financing construction in the settlements,” reads an analysis on Huffington Post. “A few other Dutch firms have also ceased business activities with Israeli companies. By contrast, ABP, another one of the Netherlands’ largest pension funds, announced that it does not intend to divest from its investments in Israeli banks because it had concluded that they had not done anything contrary to international law or regulations.”

    The list of banks included in the Luxembourg boycott are Bank Leumi, Bank Hapoalim, First International Bank of Israel, Israel Discount Bank and Mizrahi Tefahot Bank, on the grounds of their “association to supporting construction of illegal settlements in occupied territories,” according to Electronic Intifada.

    The U.K. started labeling or completely boycotting products made in the Gaza Strip and West Bank settlements in 2009, reported.

    “Marks & Spencer, Morrisons and Waitrose are among many British firms to stop selling settler goods in recent years,” WorldBulletin noted.

    A high-profile controversy between British charity Oxfam and Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson, former ambassador for Oxfam, ended recently after Johansson became the new face of the Israeli firm SodaStream, which operates in illegal West Bank settlements.

    “The boycotts look likely to threaten the livelihood of Jewish settlers in the West Bank and isolate Israel economically,” WorldBulletin asserted. “Last year, boycotts on products like dates and grapes grown in the occupied Jordan Valley caused a $29 million loss for illegal Jewish settlers in the region.”

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