Texas punishes Norway fund for refusing to violate Palestinian rights

A Palestinian girl holds a Palestinian flag in front of a row of settlement houses.

Texas is punishing a Norwegian pension fund for naming Israeli settlement construction companies as human rights violators. 

Issam Rimawi APA images

Update: On 25 April a federal court in Texas froze the state’s anti-BDS law.

In a move intended to shield Israeli companies from accountability, Texas officials have announced that state agencies will be pulling $72 million in stock from DNB, a Norwegian financial services company that manages the state’s pension funds for public employees.

By this move, the state of Texas shows it will punish corporations for not actively investing in Israel’s systems of apartheid and military occupation.

DNB has named several Israeli corporations on its exclusion list over their involvement with violations of human rights, indigenous rights and/or labor rights, including arms maker Elbit Systems and illegal settlement construction companies Africa Israel Investments/Danya Cebus and Shikun & Binui.

The Israeli firms are among many companies worldwide excluded by DNB for profiting off coal, tobacco, oil sands, nuclear weapons and cluster weapons industries, or for political corruption and environmental violations – all breaches of DNB’s ethical investment guidelines.

Corporations “which show no willingness to rectify the situation may be excluded from the investment universe,” DNB states.

The two Texas state pension agencies divesting from DNB are acting on the state’s 2017 legislation that prohibits contracting with companies unless they certify that they will not boycott Israel.

The law also creates a blacklist of companies that purportedly engage in the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaigns, and requires the state to pull its investments from such companies, according to Palestine Legal.

The Texas anti-BDS law is being challenged by leading civil rights litigators on behalf of Texas public employees over its violations of their free speech rights.

Similar lawsuits against state anti-BDS laws in Arizona and Kansas have resulted in federal judges blocking the measures, citing constitutional violations.

Recent amendments to the Arizona anti-BDS law remain inherently unconstitutional, legal experts say.

Earlier this month, attorneys with the Center for Constitutional Rights and Palestine Legal filed a brief in support of a lawsuit brought by the American Civil Liberties Union in Arkansas against that state’s law requiring contractors to pledge not to boycott Israel.

Repeating well-worn smears against the BDS campaign, a group of 48 Democrat and Republican US lawmakers recently endorsed a resolution condemning the boycott movement and calling for a two-state solution.

In a report issued this week, Human Rights Watch noted that “more than 250 million Americans, some 78 percent of the population, live in states with anti-boycott laws or policies.”

These states “are using anti-boycott laws and executive orders to punish companies that refuse to do business with illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank,” the group says.

Human Rights Watch’s deputy US advocacy director explained that the 27 US states with anti-BDS laws “are effectively telling companies that if you do the right thing and disentangle yourselves from settlement abuses, you can’t do business with us.”

“States should encourage, not sanction, companies that avoid contributing to rights abuses,” added Andrea Prasow.


The Israeli firms excluded by DNB over human rights abuses are no strangers to Palestinian rights activists worldwide who have campaigned for years to hold them accountable.

Elbit Systems is a weapons manufacturer which is “sordidly famous for providing cluster munitions banned by international law, and white phosphorus shells, both used against Palestinian civilian populations – a use also condemned by international law,” notes corporate watchdog SumOfUs.

It was recently revealed that France-based insurance and financial giant AXA quietly divested last year from Elbit.

Africa Israel, a company owned by billionaire Lev Leviev, has been a focus of BDS campaigns over its construction of Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank through its subsidiary Danya Cebus.

In 2013, the Norwegian finance ministry reversed a previous decision to exclude Africa Israel and Danya Cebus shares from a state pension fund after Africa Israel claimed it was no longer involved in settlement building.

But The Electronic Intifada published evidence showing that Leviev’s company was lying.

Partly based on this evidence, the Norwegian government reimposed its ban on the occupation-profiteering firms.

Along with Africa Israel and Elbit, the settlement construction firm Shikun & Binui was also excluded in 2015 from a Norwegian pension firm over its role in violations of Palestinian rights.

These companies are among dozens likely to appear in a yet unpublished UN database of corporations profiting from Israel’s military occupation and colonization of Palestinian land.



Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).