Norway’s finance ministry has excluded Shikun & Binui from the Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG), the largest pension fund in Europe, over its construction of illegal Israeli colonies in East Jerusalem. Analysts have described the company as Israel’s largest real estate business.
The Norwegian government has previously divested from Israeli military company Elbit, as well as Africa Israel Investments and Danya Cebus, two other construction companies involved in building illegal settlements. The two divestment announcements followed large international campaigns. The human rights organization Adalah-NY has recently unveiled evidence that Africa Israel continues to construct illegal settlements despite its reassurances to the Norwegian government and others to the contary.
Announcing this latest divestment on its website on Friday, the ministry of finance stated:
The decision to exclude the company follows an exclusion recommendation from the Council on Ethics to the GPFG. The company is a construction company involved in the building of settlements in breach of international humanitarian law in East-Jerusalem. Council emphasises that the construction of such settlements on occupied territory represents a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, the convention for the protection of civilian persons in time of war…
…The GPFG owned shares worth some NOK 8.5 million [$1.42m] in Shikun & Binui Ltd. on 31.12.2011.
Norwegian People’s Aid, a humanitarian organization, welcomed the decision, but also reminded the Norwegian government that it continues to invest in many other companies that actively participate in Israeli violations of international law:
We are pleased with the decision but at the same time asking the council to look into investments in other companies that contribute to the occupation, says Secretary-General Liv Tørres…
…Norwegian People’s Aid raised its concerns with the company Shikun & Binui to the Council on Ethics in letters and meetings in 2009 and 2010.
The report, “Dangerous Liaisons,” which was written in cooperation with Fagforbundet (Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees) and was launched in May 2012, mentioned a number of examples of other companies that the Norwegian Pension Fund has invested in and that is contributing to the occupation.
The report mentions a number of companies in the Pension Fund’s portfolio that should be excluded. One of them, Motorola Israel, provides radar systems for settlements. Norwegian People’s Aid is going to continue our work towards the Norwegian Pension Fund and the Council on Ethics so that they will no longer be contributing to the illegal occupation, says Liv Tørres.
The pension fund also holds shares in G4S, Veolia and Hewlett Packard, and several other companes targeted by the movement for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS). The Norwegian government has come under sustained pressure over the fund’s ethical policies from many different human rights and social justice campaigns.
The Norwegian campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel is enjoying a period of exciting growth at present, with the “Dangerous Liasons” report recieving wide mainstream coverage and coming shortly after a major retailer announced a decision to stop stocking any products manufactured in illegal colonies. The Norwegian trade union federation (LO) will discuss several motions that will build on its existing BDS activities at its four-yearly congress later this year. The Palestine Committee of Norway voted to make BDS a central priority for the coming period at its recent congress.