EU pension funds invest billions in businesses linked to Israeli settlements

01-02-2017 19:23

Source: Middle East Eye


Major European pension funds have invested billions of dollars in businesses linked to illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, according to an investigation by a Danish investigative news team.  


The latest revelation - which goes against EU directives forbidding investment in businesses linked to Israeli settlements - comes after Israel ramped up settlement construction following the inauguration of US President Donald Trump. 


Danwatch, an investigative news outlet based in Denmark, revealed on Tuesday that five of the largest European pension funds had invested €7.5 billion in businesses linked to illegal Israeli settlements.


The investigation involved screening the investment portfolios of Europe's top five pension fund managers. 


The pension funds had invested billions of euros in 36 companies, which have been under "public scrutiny because of their activities in the occupied Palestinian territories".


Some of the companies linked to pension funds investing in illegal Israeli settlements include American company PayPal, which offers its services to Israelis living in the settlements but not to Palestinians who live in the West Bank, and the Israel Discount Bank, which has provided loans for construction projects in illegal Israeli settlements. 


Conducting business deals with companies linked to illegal settlements is not against the law, but according to the United Nations, "investors are obliged to carry out enhanced due diligence" and demonstrate that "their activities do not contribute to negative effects on human rights".  


Experts have told Danwatch that continued investments in businesses linked to illegal Israeli settlements "undermine" any prospect of a viable two-state solution. 


Hugh Lovatt, a policy fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, told Middle East Eye: “A lot of companies don’t know what the reality is. They hear from Israel and their partners that these issues are disputed, so they’re simply not fully cognisant of what the law actually says. So the business advisories are part of a process of explaining to businesses, banks and investors what the situation is, so they have the option of aligning their practices with international law.” 


Last Monday, Danwatch published a Danish version focusing on Danish investors. This led half of the Danish parliament to demand action from the government and call for parliamentary hearings. 

Several of the largest European pension funds and banks have responded to the activities of the Israeli banks in occupied territories by excluding them. Among these is the third-largest pension fund in Europe, PFZW (formerly PGGM), which decided in 2014 to pull all its investments out of Israel’s five largest banks because they finance settlements and operate branches in the West Bank.
Israel has faced heavy pressure in the last few months after the United Nations Security Council demanded it halts settlement building on Palestinian land. 
The Netanyahu administration has continued to ram through permits for settlement buildings in the West Bank as it announced plans last week to build more than 2500 settlements, after the inauguration of President Donald Trump.

Topics : #Israel #Palestine #EU #Denmark #Europe #Pension Funds #Israeli settlements

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