Monday, January 25, 2010

Another divestment victory in Denmark as energy builds for campus divestment across North America

A Danish bank has added two Israeli companies that profit from the Israeli occupation to their list of companies that fail to meet the bank's Socially Responsible Investment standards, according to the Copenhagen Post Online. Settlement-builder Africa Israel and Apartheid Wall-contractor Elbit Systems were added to the "no investment" list of Dankse Bank. This is not the first time that either company has come under fire for its violation of human rights and international law in the occupied Palestinian territories. Africa Israel is majority-owned by New York-based diamond merchant Lev Leviev, a fact that has been highlighted by US Campaign member group Adalah-NY in a sustained campaign against Leviev's settlement-building and blood-diamond dealing activities. Leviev invests in Israeli settlements throughout the West Bank, including on the land of the Palestinian village of Bil'in, home of still-imprisoned Palestinian activist Abdallah Abu Rahmah. In March 2009, the British Embassy in Tel Aviv refused to rent space to Africa Israel due to the companies illegal activity in the West Bank. Elbit Systems, which is one of the major contractors involved in the building of Israel's Apartheid Wall and also has half of the contract on the U.S./Mexico border wall, has already lost investors due to its involvement in the Israeli Occupation, most notably the decision of the Norwegian Government Pension Fund to divest from Elbit in September 2009. Recently-freed Palestinian activist Mohammad Othman was arrested by Israel while returning from Norway to testify about the involvement of Elbit in the construction of the Wall. The Copenhagen Post Online quotes a representative of Dankse Bank on the reason for the bank's "no investment" decision:
"Thomas H. Kjærgaard, head of Danske Bank’s SRI department, told Business.dk the bank was looking out for the interests of its customers by not ‘placing their money in companies that violate international standards’. ‘It’s not in itself against national legislation to build a house, but our SRI policy goes further than that. It adheres to UN conventions and analyses them in a political context. It’s the Nordic, UN and EU position that the settlements are illegal and a hindrance to a peaceful resolution. On that basis we can state that this is a violation of our SRI policy,’ he said."
Investors in other corporate profiteers--companies such as Caterpillar and Motorola that continue to make money at the expense of Palestinian lives, lands, and liberty--would do well to heed Kjærgaard's words. -- In other divestment news, the energy of campus divestment campaigns continues to grow. Here's Gabriel Schivone writing in the University of Arizona Daily Wildcat:
"In a letter dated Dec. 31, 2009, addressed to the student-led monitoring group, the University of Arizona Community for Human Rights, and to the faculty-based University Committee for Monitoring Labor and Human Rights Issues, the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church relayed its leading research on each Motorola and Caterpillar with regard to the companies’ involvement in the illegal military occupation of Palestine: “For years churches and human rights groups have met with Caterpillar and submitted resolutions urging it to stop providing bulldozers that demolish Palestinian homes.”

“During this time,” the church states, “Caterpillar has deepened its involvement with the occupation.” "

And here's Aidan McDonald of Carleton University in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, writing at Rabble.ca:
"[D]espite Carleton President Roseann Runte's characterization of the university as an institution that is "engaged in solving real-world problems," and her proclamation that it emphasizes human rights and social justice, Students Against Israeli Apartheid -- Carleton (SAIA) has discovered that the Carleton University Pension Fund has tens of millions of dollars invested in...companies which are willing contributors to the litany of social and political ailments that plague our global community....Motorola, BAE and Northrop Grumman are perhaps the most egregious of the bunch, as they all supplied Israel with military equipment that was used in the 2008-2009 bombardment of Gaza....Adopting SRI would go a long way towards making Carleton a more ethical institution, and would align it with its obligations under international law. Similarly, divesting from these companies would be a major step for the BDS movement, and for the pursuit of justice for the Palestinian people. The international precedents for both actions have been set. The pressure is now on for Carleton to do the right thing."
Read the rest of Gabriel and Aidan's articles, and then find out how you can start your own campus divestment initiative.