The Electronic Intifada Podcast 23 February 2015
For nearly a decade, Palestine solidarity activists in Minnesota have been organizing and campaigning to have state funds pulled from millions of dollars worth of bonds invested in Israel’s occupation.
Activist Phil Benson of the Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign (MN-BBC) says that the state must divest from its Israel bonds — and public support for their campaign is growing.
“The more people we talk to, the more people agree with us,” Benson explains in an interview with The Electronic Intifada.
“We can estimate that since a percentage of Israel’s general treasury goes to illegal activities, every dollar that [Minnesota puts] into Israel’s general fund by purchasing these bonds contributes to those activities. That’s a violation of [the state’s] fiduciary duty to the pension plan holders and the retired state employees and the taxpayers of Minnesota,” he says. “That’s our key argument.”
In 2011, MN-BBC officially filed a lawsuit against the State Board of Investment (SBI), demanding that Minnesota pull its massive investment in Israeli violations of Palestinians’ rights. Campaigners referred to the Israeli army’s violent suppression of weekly, nonviolent protests by villagers in the occupied West Bank village of Bilin. “We argued that Minnesota was financially complicit in Israel’s human rights violations,” Benson says.
The suit was dismissed in both the lower court and the appeals court, but activists say they are not deterred and are pressing on with this campaign.
Last December, more than two dozen members of MN-BBC presented a report to executive officers of SBI reviewing Israel’s human rights record. Citing settler violence, the Israeli army’s use of lethal ammunition, targeted assassinations, military incursions into Gaza, arbitrary detention, forced confessions under torture and discriminatory laws, amongst other rights violations, MN-BBC asserted that state investments in Israel should be “prohibited.”
On 4 March, MN-BBC members will again be present at the quarterly State Board of Investment meeting at which the renewal of the $10 million Israel bond holding will be discussed.
“Since the money is being put into Israel’s general fund, it’s been doled out to activities that are involved in settlement construction, weapons procurement and different ministries in Israel without any restrictions at all placed on the use of the money,” Benson says. “Which means that Minnesota, essentially, is being complicit in violating international law and human rights standards.”
Minnesota Break the Bonds campaigners sent a letter last week to Minnesota’s secretary of state and SBI board member, Steve Simon, urging him to recuse himself from the 4 March SBI meeting because of his position on the board of directors with the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Minnesota and the Dakotas. The JCRC, a national organization, has an Israel advocacy wing that activists say “is inconsistent with its claims that it promotes tolerance and advocates for social justice.” The letter was seen by The Electronic Intifada.
“Because the government of Israel has designated the international boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, a peaceful nonviolent protest movement, as an ‘existential threat,’ the JCRC has characterized its statewide efforts to resist BDS, including our attempts to persuade the SBI to divest from Israel bonds, as a ‘major initiative,’” MN-BBC writes.
Activists say that the JCRC has disseminated false information about the Palestinian-led BDS movement and Minnesota Break the Bonds, including claims that the group has engaged in “an endless campaign to delegitimize and demonize Israel in Minnesota.”
Benson said that those charges are mere attempts to crush their growing campaign.
Sylvia Schwarz, a fellow campaigner with MN-BBC, told The Electronic Intifada that there are nearly eighty different Israel bonds held by municipalities and states around the country. “We thought that [the Israel bond] was a good target because everybody in the state is involved with their taxpayer money,” she explained.
Listen to the interview with Benson and Schwarz via the media player above.
- Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign (MN BBC)
- Jewish Community Relations Council
Permalink weareone replied on
Israel bonds are a great target. Hopefully other states will emulate this model. Thanks for this article.
Israel was White RACIST,
Permalink william replied on
Israel was White RACIST, APARTHEID, South Africa's ONLY ally, trading weapons, torture techniques, NUCLEAR TECHNOLOGY, with them. Today Israel continues Racist APARTHEID with it's wall. Israel enforces laws that are straight out of Nazi Germany such as Palestinians must have different colored ID cards and license plates, JUST like the yellow stars the Jews WAIL about having to wear. Palestinians have to use separate roads, IDENTICAL to Black OR Whites Only drinking faucets.
Israel and South Africa were virtually twinned as military allies for Pretoria helped supply Israel militarily in the immediacy of its 1973 setback and Israel came to support apartheid South Africa at the height of sanctions with weaponry and technology – from naval ships and the conversion of supersonic fighter planes to assistance in building six nuclear bombs and the creation of a thriving arms industry. Israel resembles apartheid South Africa at its zenith – even surpassing its brutality, house demolitions, removal of communities, targeted assassinations, massacres, imprisonment and torture of its opponents and the aggression against neighbouring states.
Israel just PRETENDS to care about African Americans (but look how Israel treats Blacks at home), so they can STEAL the taxdollars that SHOULD have been repairing schools and infrastructure and providing police protection in the Cities. Year after year BILLIONS of African American Tax dollars buy more APARTHEID-suppression for the NATIVE PEOPLE of PALESTINE instead of improving life for the Black American People who earned those dollars.