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(Wissam Nassar / Maan Images)

Quaker socially responsible investment fund divests $390,000 from Hewlett-Packard, Veolia

The Quaker Friends Fiduciary Corporation (FFC), which handles investments for more than 300 Quaker meetings, schools, organizations, trusts, and endowments around the US, announced that it has divested from Hewlett-Packard and Veolia Environment in response to a request by the Ann Arbor Friends’ Meeting (Quakers) group, which advocated for this divestment move. FFC, which holds more than $200 million in assets, is a not-for-profit socially responsible investment fund for the Religious Society of Friends.

The announcement comes just months after the FFC pulled $900,000 from its investment shares in Caterpillar Inc. over its continued profiting from Israel’s demolitions of Palestinian homes, property and land.

In a press release, the Palestine Israel Action Group (PIAG) — a subcommittee of the Peace and Social Concerns Committee of Ann Arbor Friends Meeting, which was also a main advocate of the Caterpillar divestment initiative — said that Hewlett-Packard was removed from FFC’s investments based on the company’s contracts with the Israeli Navy. Veolia Environment, which the press release says is the “world’s largest water privitization company,” was removed from the FFC investment portfolio “because of environmental and social concerns.”

Veolia remains a major target for global boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns because of its contracts with the Israeli government to build the Jerusalem Light Rail project, a tramway that will link West Jerusalem with illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and elsewhere in the occupied West Bank. Through sustained pressure on local city councils across Europe and Australia by BDS activism campaigners, Veolia has already lost billions of dollars worth of contracts.

The PIAG press release adds:

According to Global Exchange, Veolia provides segregated water services to Israeli settlers in the Palestinian Territories and runs a large landfill in the occupied Jordan River valley. … The action of Friends Fiduciary in dropping these three firms marks a major breakthrough in the global campaign to hold corporations accountable for profiting from Israel’s human rights and international law violations in the Palestinian Territories.

In a concurrent statement, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation announced that:

The Quaker Friends Fiduciary Corporation (FFC) has become the first US national fund to divest from Hewlett-Packard (HP) and Veolia Environment following concerns expressed by Palestinian rights advocates about the companies’ involvement in the Israeli occupation. At last count, FFC held investments of more than $250,000 in HP and more than $140,000 in Veolia.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this blog had incorrectly stated that the FFC had pulled its funds from Veolia and Hewlett-Packard explicitly because of Israel’s occupation. The FFC’s reasons for divestment were stated above in the PIAG press release.

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Quakers make decisions by "getting a sense of the Meeting." This is not consensus, but is "getting a sense of what God wants us to do in this situation." It is not taken lightly. Israel's Occupation and Palestine and their illegal settlement policy is a hot button issue in many Quaker communities, meaning it is brought up and discussed without coming to unity (a decision one way or the other). And I was surprised in the literature to see that Illinois Yearly Meeting supports "We Divest Campaign" as this means all the Quaker Meetings in Illinois Yearly came to that unity. Wonderful!

Just because it is illegal by international standards does not seem interfere with our United States Government shovelling billions into Israeli support, or large church organizations wringing their hands over whether to divest or not, or corporations over making a profit by selling their products used by Israel to further the occupation. Israel has got a free pass on devouring Palestine for way too long. It is about time that more eyes and ears and hearts are opened.