Norwegian oil fund excludes two Israeli companies for West Bank activities
The world’s largest sovereign wealth fund has ruled out two Israeli companies for the construction and rental of buildings in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, the first time it has taken such a step in nearly a decade.
The $ 1.3 billion Norwegian oil fund said on Wednesday evening it had sold Shapir Engineering and Industry as well as Mivne Real Estate and excluded them from its portfolio “due to the unacceptable risk of companies contributing to systematic breaches of the rights of individuals in situations of war or conflict ”.
The Ethics Council, the independent body that advises the fund on possible exclusions, said: “Israeli settlements in the West Bank were built in violation of international law. . . their existence and constant expansion are causing significant damage and disadvantage to the Palestinian population in the region. “
Shapir is involved in building houses in Israeli settlements while Mivne rents industrial real estate linked to settlements, according to the Ethics Council.
Its recommendations date back to last year, before the recent Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The oil fund exclusions on Israeli settlements come as unrest caused by the recent Israeli bombing of Gaza has spread to the occupied West Bank. Israeli security forces have killed more than 20 Palestinians in the West Bank since protests erupted in the territory last week. The IDF said two police stations were shot and wounded during protests in Ramallah and a Palestinian separately attacked security forces in Hebron with an explosive device and a knife.
Israel captured the West Bank from Jordanian control in 1967 during the Six Day War. About 650,000 Israeli settlers live in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, in settlements widely considered illegal under international law. Palestinians seek the West Bank as the heart of a future independent state.
The oil fund, which is still selling the companies before announcing their exclusion, was a relatively small owner in both companies, owning 0.1% of Shapir and 0.5% of Mivne at the end of 2019, with a common value. of 124 million Norwegian kroner ($ 15 m).
The Ethics Council said there was an “unacceptable risk” that the two companies would continue to operate in Israeli settlements in the future.
Neither company responded to the Norwegian agency’s inquiries, and neither immediately responded to the FT’s requests for comment.
The fund ruled out four companies ten years ago because of ties to Israeli settlements, but subsequently removed two of them from its banned list in 2013. Activists in Norway and Palestine urged it to take action against more companies while also targeting other investors, such as university endowments.
The oil fund is banned by the Norwegian parliament from investing in companies that produce tobacco, nuclear weapons and coal, but also excludes companies because of their behavior in areas such as environmental damage or violation of rights workers. The companies in which it cannot invest are Airbus, Boeing, Glencore and RWE.
Separately, the oil fund has also excluded Honeys Holdings, a Japanese women’s clothing company, over concerns about workers’ rights at two garment factories it owns in Myanmar. The Ethics Council’s recommendation to sell honeys came last year, ahead of the February military coup in the Southeast Asian country. Honeys could not be reached immediately for comment.