Largest Danish bank, Norwegian pension fund pull out of Israeli firms over settlement issue

03 Feb 2014 Facebook Created with Sketch. Twitter Created with Sketch. Email Print
Largest Danish bank, Norwegian pension fund pull out of Israeli firms over settlement issue

Danske Bank, Denmark's largest bank, has added Israel’s Bank Hapoalim to its list of excluded companies over its operations in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. Bank Hapoalim was added to the Danske Bank’s list of excluded companies two weeks ago. The bank’s website cited the Israeli bank’s involvement in “construction activities in conflict with international humanitarian law.”

A spokeswoman for Danske Bank declared: "Our customers expect us to invest their funds in a responsible manner regardless of where in the world the companies that we invest in operate. The Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories have been criticized by the UN, the EU and the Nordic governments. According to standard international law, the settlements are considered illegal and in hindrance to achieving peace. Companies' activities related to these settlements are therefore controversial and in some cases represent a violation of international conventions and guidelines. In cases of violation we have decided to withdraw our investments."

The same reasoning — a reference to Israeli construction in the West Bank — was used by the bank in 2010, when it divested from the defense contractor Elbit, citing its alleged involvement in “supplying electronic equipment in conflict with human rights norms.” Danske Bank has a list of 33 excluded firms, four of which are Israeli.

Israel’s ambassador to Denmark, Arthur Avnon, accused the bank of focusing disproportionately on Israel. “What they are really doing is playing with politics, and not, as they say, worrying about moral values or violations of international norms,” he told a Danish news site.

Several northern European financial institutions have divested from Israeli banks and firms over the past year over what they perceive as illegal activity in the West Bank, including the PGGM pensions administrator in the Netherlands and Norway’s GPFG pension fund.

On Friday, US State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf reacted to these developments in a statement saying that “Boycotts directed against Israel are unhelpful, and we oppose them.”

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