Norway’s largest pension fund divests from firms linked to West Bank settlements

KLP, which manages some $95 billion worth of assets, says investments in companies tied to settlement enterprise ‘risk complicity in international law violations’

A picture taken from the Israeli settlement of Kedar shows the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, both in the West Bank, on October 26, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX)
A picture taken from the Israeli settlement of Kedar shows the Israeli settlement of Maale Adumim, both in the West Bank, on October 26, 2017. (AFP PHOTO / THOMAS COEX)

OSLOW, Norway — Norway’s largest pension fund announced Monday it had divested assets in 16 companies for their links to Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including telecom equipment giant Motorola.

“Motorola and other companies risk complicity in international law violations in occupied Palestine,” KLP, which manages some 95 billion dollars (80 billion euros) worth of assets, said in a statement.

The divestment follows the February 2020 UN publication of a list of 112 companies with activities linked to Israeli settlements, considered illegal under international law.

Israel’s government has denounced the publication of the list — which included companies like Airbnb, Expedia, Motorola and Tripadvisor — as a “contemptible effort.”

“Divesting from Motorola Solutions was a very straightforward decision over its surveillance role in the occupied territories,” KLP said, arguing the company provides software used in border surveillance.

KLP also divested from telecom operators offering services within the West Bank as they contributed to making “the settlements attractive residential areas.”

These included Bezeq, Cellcom Israel and Partner Communications, and Altice Europe — which was delisted from the Amsterdam stock exchange in January.

General view of the Bezeq Satellite Station in the Haella Valley, February 23, 2008. (Nati Shohat/Flash90)

Also included are five banks that facilitated or financed the construction of housing and infrastructure in the West Bank, as well as engineering and construction groups, including the French multinational Alstom.

In total, the Norwegian fund’s divestments of shares and company bonds amounted to $32 million.

“Companies have a responsibility to respect and protect human rights in all countries that they are operating in, regardless if the state itself is upholding these rights,” KLP analyst Kiran Aziz said.

“Conflict can mean a particularly high risk of human rights violations. Companies operating in conflict zones must therefore exercise particular caution to avoid involvement in human rights abuses and to protect vulnerable individuals,” she added.

In late June, KLP announced its divestment of the Indian port and logistics group Adani Ports because of its links to the Burmese military junta.

Another Norwegian fund, the sovereign wealth fund, which is the largest in the world, has also excluded several companies in the past because of their connections to West Bank settlements.

More than 600,000 Israelis live in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, whose Jewish neighborhoods the international community also considers settlements.

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