Israel – Danwatch https://danwatch.dk/en undersøgende journalistik Fri, 23 Feb 2018 22:55:15 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.4 https://danwatch.dk/dw-content/uploads/2017/09/cropped-Danwatch_fav-450x450.gif Israel – Danwatch https://danwatch.dk/en 32 32 Pension Fund blacklists four companies after Danwatch investigation https://danwatch.dk/en/pension-fund-blacklists-four-companies-after-danwatch-investigation/ https://danwatch.dk/en/pension-fund-blacklists-four-companies-after-danwatch-investigation/#respond Tue, 10 Oct 2017 11:18:22 +0000 https://danwatch.dk/pension-fund-blacklists-four-companies-after-danwatch-investigation/ The third largest pension fund in Denmark, Sampension, excludes four publicly traded companies from their portfolio. The blacklisting happens after Danwatch in January this year, in the investigation Business on Occupied Territory, documented that Sampension is the Danish pension fund that has invested the largest sum of money in companies doing business in or around the illegal Israeli settlements. The Danwatch-investigation has lead the pension fund to revise its investment guidelines, the fund stated in a press release dated 2. October (Links to Press Release in Danish).

All of the four companies are excluded for violating Sampension’s new guidelines for investments in occupied territories.

”Based on our new policy we have reviewed whether or not there are companies in our portfolio which are listed in Vigeo Eiris’ BIOL-database (Business in Occupied Lands)”, explains director of investments in Sampension, Henrik Olejasz Larsen, in the press release.

“The result of our review is that two Israeli banks, Hapoalim and Leumi, as well as Heidelberg Cement and Bezeq, has been placed on our list of excluded companies due to the financing of settlements, and the extraction of natural resources and establishment of infrastructure for telecommunication on occupied territory”, the press release states.   

Six more companies are being examined

Last week the organisation Human Rights Watch documented that Israeli banks are violating the human rights of palestinians, as well as international law, through their financing of new infrastructure projects that cement the occupation of Palestinian territory.

Investments in the occupied territories are problematic also because Danish investors are undermining both Denmark’s and the EU’s official policy of supporting a two-state solution as a solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestine.

Sampension had invested a total of 400 million Danish kroner in Israeli and international companies with activities in settlements on the West Bank when Danwatch investigated the investments in January this year.

Then, Sampension stated that they had no specific investment policy for the occupied territories, but that all of their investments must respect human rights, no matter where the companies are doing business.

Today Sampension informs that they, apart from the four blacklisted companies, are also initiating a dialogue with an additional six companies about their possible business activities in the settlements.

See the full list of companies excluded by Sampension here.

Stays on occupied land

Sampension’s policy change does not lead to any immediate policy changes with other Danish pension funds who hold similar investments.

In a survey Danwatch has asked seven investment funds, who all held investments in banks operating on the West Bank when Danwatch investigated the matter in January 2017, if they plan to exclude or in other ways take action against the companies.  

Only three of the funds have replied to the survey – none of which have ended their investments in banks doing business on occupied land.

Denmark’s largest bank, Danske Bank, confirms that they still hold investments in the two banks excluded by Sampension, Hapoalim and Leumi. In their latest investment portfolio made available to the public Danske Bank held 560.000 Danish kroner in Bank Hapoalim, and 930.000 Danish kroner in Bank Leumi.

They do not intend to keep an extra eye on the Israeli banks operating on the West Bank.

“We do not have a specific investment policy towards Israeli companies, but all companies we invest in have to comply with our internal guidelines for responsible investments, Robert Bruun Mikkelstrup, assistant director for Investment Risk and Implementation in Dansk Bank, says in an e-mail.

Neither Nordea has ended their investments in the banks, but they have initiated a dialogue.

“We have been in dialogue with the relevant banks about their investments in occupied territories, and we will include aspects of Human Rights Watch’ framework in our future dialogue with the banks. Depending on the results of this dialogue, we will consider our future investments”, states both Nordea Liv & Pension and Nordea Invest.  

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Europe’s Largest Pension Funds Heavily Invested in Illegal Israeli Settlements https://danwatch.dk/en/europes-largest-pension-funds-heavily-invested-in-illegal-israeli-settlements/ https://danwatch.dk/en/europes-largest-pension-funds-heavily-invested-in-illegal-israeli-settlements/#respond Tue, 31 Jan 2017 08:18:55 +0000 https://danwatch.dk/?p=20465 European investors have billions of euro invested in companies with activities in and around illegal Israeli settlements, according to a new investigation from Danwatch that screened the investment portfolios of Europe’s top five pension fund managers.

Statens pensjonsfond utland (Oljefondet) (NO), Stichting Pensioenfonds ABP (NE), Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn (NE), Arbejdsmarkedets Tillægspension (DK), and Alecta Pensionsförsäkring (SE) have a total of €7.5 billion invested in 36 Israeli and international publicly-traded companies, most of which have long been under public scrutiny because of their activities in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Top five European pension funds

  • Statens Pensjonsfond Utland (Oljefondet) (NO)
  • Stichting Pensioenfonds ABP (NE)
  • Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn (PFZW) (NE)
  • Arbejdsmarkedets Tillaegspension (ATP) (DK)
  • Alecta Pensionsförsäkring (SE)

Top five European pension funds

  • Statens Pensjonsfond Utland (Oljefondet) (NO)
  • Stichting Pensioenfonds ABP (NE)
  • Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn (PFZW) (NE)
  • Arbejdsmarkedets Tillaegspension (ATP) (DK)
  • Alecta Pensionsförsäkring (SE)

Hugh Lovatt, expert on Israel and Palestine at the respected think-tank European Council on Foreign Relations, explains the problem with settlements:“Israeli settlements in the occupied territories are illegal and have led to the dispossession of Palestinians and the fragmentation of Palestinian land. They infringe on Palestinian rights and exploit Palestinian natural resources.”Business activities in and around settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are not necessarily against the law, but according to the United Nations, investors are obliged to carry out enhanced due diligence and to demonstrate that their activities do not contribute to negative effects on human rights.

Overview from the European Council on Foreign Relations of the 18 EU countries (in green), which to date has published indicative warnings to citizens and businesses about the risk of legal, financial and reputational consequences of financial and economic activities in the settlements. 

Warning from European governments

36 companies investigated

1. Africa Israel Properties
2. Alon Blue Square Israel Ltd.
3. Alstom SA
4. Altice NV
5. Azrieli Group
6. Bank Hapoalim BM
7. Bank Leumi Le-Israel BM
8. Bezeq The Israeli Telecommunication Corp Ltd
9. Caterpillar Inc
10. Cellcom Israel Ltd
11. Cemex
12. CNH Industrial NV
13. Delek Group Ltd
14. Electra Ltd/Israel
15. Expedia Inc
16. First International Bank Of Israel Ltd
17. G4S PLC
18. General Mills Inc
19. Gilat Satellite Networks Ltd
20. HeidelbergCement AG
21. Hertz Global Holdings Inc
22. Hyundai Heavy Industries Co
23. Israel Discount Bank Ltd
24. Jerusalem Economy Ltd.
25. Mizrahi Tefahot Bank Ltd
26. Motorola Solutions Inc
27. OSI Systems Inc
28. Partner Communications Co Ltd
29. PayPal Holdings Inc
30. Paz Oil Co Ltd
31. Phoenix Holdings Ltd/The
32. Priceline Group Inc/The
33. Rami Levy Chain Stores
34. Shufersal Ltd
35. Siemens AG
36. Volvo AB

Detailed profiles of companies 

36 companies investigated

1. Africa Israel Properties
2. Alon Blue Square Israel Ltd.
3. Alstom SA
4. Altice NV
5. Azrieli Group
6. Bank Hapoalim BM
7. Bank Leumi Le-Israel BM
8. Bezeq The Israeli Telecommunication Corp Ltd
9. Caterpillar Inc
10. Cellcom Israel Ltd
11. Cemex
12. CNH Industrial NV
13. Delek Group Ltd
14. Electra Ltd/Israel
15. Expedia Inc
16. First International Bank Of Israel Ltd
17. G4S PLC
18. General Mills Inc
19. Gilat Satellite Networks Ltd
20. HeidelbergCement AG
21. Hertz Global Holdings Inc
22. Hyundai Heavy Industries Co
23. Israel Discount Bank Ltd
24. Jerusalem Economy Ltd.
25. Mizrahi Tefahot Bank Ltd
26. Motorola Solutions Inc
27. OSI Systems Inc
28. Partner Communications Co Ltd
29. PayPal Holdings Inc
30. Paz Oil Co Ltd
31. Phoenix Holdings Ltd/The
32. Priceline Group Inc/The
33. Rami Levy Chain Stores
34. Shufersal Ltd
35. Siemens AG
36. Volvo AB

Detailed profiles of companies 

In addition, 18 European countries warn their citizens and businesses in no uncertain terms against undertaking financial and economic activities that could support illegal Israeli settlements.

“Financial transactions, investments, purchases, tenders, and other economic activities (including services like tourism) in Israeli settlements or benefiting Israeli settlements are associated with legal and economic risks due to the fact that, according to international law, the Israeli settlements are built on occupied land and are not recognised as a lawful part of Israel’s territory,” wrote the Danish Foreign Ministry in a 2014 statement similar to statements published by other countries.

“One should also be aware of possible violations of international humanitarian law and human rights,” the statement warns and refers to OECD Guidelinesfor Multinational Enterprises (2011) and United Nations Guiding Principles on Businessand Human rights(2011).

Undermining the two-state solution

In addition to the “increased risk of adverse human rights impacts”, as the UN puts it, European investors are also actively undermining the official policy of the EU regarding a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“When European investors finance, fund or facilitate the settlement enterprise and illegal actions in the occupied Palestinian territories, they are contributing to the undermining of the two-state solution and therefore the undermining of the EU’s own foreign policy objectives. And these investments are illegal under international law – or at least very problematic – and exposes European investors to reputational, financial and legal risks,” says Lovatt.Investments in companies with business activities in and around settlements tie European investors to potential violations of international humanitarian law and Palestinians’ human rights.Lars Erslev Andersen, a senior researcher at the Danish Institute for International Studies (DIIS), agrees that it is problematic when companies have activities in settlements.“In my opinion, businesses that have branches or factories in the occupied Palestinian territories help to maintain the occupation and facilitate Israel’s continued construction of settlements, infrastructure and security apparatus in the West Bank,” Andersen tells Danwatch.

This is problematic, because it undermines the two-state solution, which is gradually becoming an illusion for a great number of people,

Lars Erslev Andersen, senior researcher at DIIS

Norwegian fund biggest investor

The largest single investor by far is Statens Pensjonsfond Utland, the Government Pension Fund of Norway, with €5.2 billion out of the total €7.5 billion invested in all 36 companies on Danwatch’s list.

This includes €135 million in Caterpillar, which supplies bulldozers for the demolition of Palestinian homes in the occupied territories; €286 million in HeidelbergCement, which has been blacklisted by several other European investors due to exploitation of Palestinian natural resources; and €1.5 billion in Siemens, which has installed traffic systems on Israeli roads in the West Bank and placed bids on projects on occupied territory with Israel Railways.

The Norwegian Government Pension Fund also has €233 million in five Israeli banks financing settlement construction and operating in the West Bank in various ways: Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, First International Bank of Israel Ltd, Israel Discount Bank Ltd and Mizrahi Tefahot Bank Ltd.

These same banks are blacklisted by Europe’s third largest pension fund Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn (PFZW) (NE) which in 2014 ended several years of dialogue.

“Given the day-to-day reality and domestic legal framework they operate in, the banks have limited to no possibilities to end their involvement in the financing of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories,” wrote PFZW (formerly PGGM) about the decision to divest from Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, First International Bank of Israel, Israel Discount Bank and Mizrahi Tefahot because they finance settlements and operate branches on occupied territory.

Danwatch asked The Norwegian Government Pension Fund specific questions about each of their investments in the 36 specific companies, but received no specific reply. Instead the fund answers in general terms about how they expect companies they invest in to strive to observe “the G20/OECD Principles of Corporate Governance, the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises, and the UN Global Compact.”

“Our expectations are especially relevant for companies with direct operations, supply chains or other business relationships in high-risk sectors, high-risk geographical areas, or otherwise high-risk operational environments,” they explain.

The Norwegian oil fund’s decisions about excluding specific companies is regulated by an independent council appointed by the Norwegian Ministry of Finance.

New  findings will be considered

Of the five largest European pension funds, Denmark’s ATP is by far the smallest investor in companies on Danwatch’s list, with about €1 million in total in Siemens and The Priceline Group Inc, the owner of booking.com, which facilitates hotels in a number of settlements. However, ATP’s publicly available stock portfolio does not include index futures, which amounts to almost 95% of ATP’s entire foreign holdings.

On the two specific investments, ATP explains that Danwatch’s findings includes new information not covered by their external screening partner, and that they will have to consider this before they can answer specific questions.

Sweden’s largest pension fund, and Europe’s fifth-largest, Alecta Pensionsförsäkring, only has investments in one company on Danwatch’s list: Volvo Group. The Swedish industrial conglomerate partly owns Merkavim, which provides armoured busses for Egged bus lines in the West Bank, where Volvo busses are also used for transport. Two Volvo-certified garages operate in the illegal industrial zones of Mishor Adumim and Atarot in the occupied West Bank. Furthermore, Volvo excavators are used by the Israeli army to demolish Palestinian houses on occupied land, as documented in FebruaryApril and October 2016 in the Palestinian villages of Jinba, Halaweh, Um Al Kher and in the Jordan Valley. Danwatch presented these findings to Volvo Group, but received no reply.

On the subject of house demolitions, Volvo Group stated in 2011 that “Volvo neither can nor wants to take a position in international conflicts […] We regret if they are used for destructive purposes, but it does not stop us from believing that our excavators and vehicles largely play a part in making the world a little better.”

Alecta Pensionsförsäkring explains to Danwatch that their due diligence is outsourced to external partner GES, and that GES confirm their knowledge about the issue and have concluded that Volvo Group’s activities is not a breach against international conventions.

“Volvo has limited possibilities to influence how their products are used and we believe that Volvo cannot be directly linked to human rights violations,” Swedish investor Alecta therefore tells Danwatch.

“Alecta has an active and ongoing dialogue with Volvo as well as with our external partner GES and has so far not received any indication pointing towards an exclusion. If necessary we will as a first priority engage further in our dialogue with Volvo to make them comply with international law, rather than exclude them as an investment,” Alecta says.

Danwatch also contacted the two Dutch pension funds Stichting Pensioenfonds ABP and Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn (PFZW), but received no reply.

 

 

FACTS: Settlements

Shortly after the capture of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, Israel began to build settlements and move its civilian citizens into the occupied Palestinian territories. Today, fifty years later, nearly 600,000 Israeli civilians live in occupied areas of East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The settlements in the Gaza Strip were vacated in 2005.

Some settlements are regular towns, while others are little more than a few shacks on a hilltop deep in the West Bank. There are 131 settlements officially recognised by the Israeli government in all. In addition, there are 97 “outposts”, smaller settlements that are illegal according to Israeli law.

According to international law, both the recognised settlements and the outposts are illegal.

United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) require that Israel withdraw from the occupied territories. This position has not changed in the intervening years, and is shared by almost all countries in the world.

Israel, as the occupying Power in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, is bound by international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including as contained in international customary law. In particular, Israel is bound by the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (Fourth Geneva Convention) and the Hague Regulations.

Specifically, an occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies, according to article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The Security Council, the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council and the International Court of Justice have all confirmed that the construction and expansion of Israeli settlements and other settlement-related activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory are illegal under international law.

The first settlements were established under the sitting left-wing government in 1967, immediately after Israel’s conquest of the West Bank from Jordan in the Six-Day War.

This was despite the fact that the Israeli government’s own legal counsel, Theodor Meron, concluded that the establishment of settlements in the West Bank and the Golan Heights contravened international law.

Every Israeli government since – irrespective of party affiliation – has supported the policy of settlements and has expanded the number of civilian Israelis living in the occupied territories.

FACTS: Settlements

Shortly after the capture of the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, Israel began to build settlements and move its civilian citizens into the occupied Palestinian territories. Today, fifty years later, nearly 600,000 Israeli civilians live in occupied areas of East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The settlements in the Gaza Strip were vacated in 2005.

Some settlements are regular towns, while others are little more than a few shacks on a hilltop deep in the West Bank. There are 131 settlements officially recognised by the Israeli government in all. In addition, there are 97 “outposts”, smaller settlements that are illegal according to Israeli law.

According to international law, both the recognised settlements and the outposts are illegal.

United Nations Security Council Resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) require that Israel withdraw from the occupied territories. This position has not changed in the intervening years, and is shared by almost all countries in the world.

Israel, as the occupying Power in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, is bound by international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including as contained in international customary law. In particular, Israel is bound by the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (Fourth Geneva Convention) and the Hague Regulations.

Specifically, an occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies, according to article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

The Security Council, the General Assembly, the Human Rights Council and the International Court of Justice have all confirmed that the construction and expansion of Israeli settlements and other settlement-related activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory are illegal under international law.

The first settlements were established under the sitting left-wing government in 1967, immediately after Israel’s conquest of the West Bank from Jordan in the Six-Day War.

This was despite the fact that the Israeli government’s own legal counsel, Theodor Meron, concluded that the establishment of settlements in the West Bank and the Golan Heights contravened international law.

Every Israeli government since – irrespective of party affiliation – has supported the policy of settlements and has expanded the number of civilian Israelis living in the occupied territories.

Follow-up investigation

This investigation is the latest installment in Danwatch’s series called “Business on Occupied Territory”. As in the earlier investigations into Danish investments in 2012 and 2014, Danwatch has identified a number of publicly-traded companies associated with illegal settlements, the separation wall, checkpoints, or the exploitation of natural resources in occupied Palestinian areas.

These include Israeli banks that finance settlement construction; the Mexican cement company Cemex, which operates three factories in the West Bank via an Israeli subsidiary; and the American technology firm Motorola, which supplies security solutions to settlements. The 36 companies on Danwatch’s list all help support illegal settlements, checkpoints or the separation wall via business activities in various ways. Some of these companies have actual addresses in settlements, pay tax to settlement authorities and create jobs, while others supply critical services or have direct agreements or contracts with parties that clearly and systematically violate human rights or international humanitarian law.

Danwatch has identified a total of 36 companies with investments from the top five European pension funds. Nineteen are Israeli, eight are American, and others are German, French, Swedish, Italian, Korean, and Mexican.

How we investigated

  • Danwatch prepared a list of publicly listed companies that cause, contribute to, or are directly linked to violations of human rights or international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territories, as described in UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
  • Danwatch obtained stock portfolios of the five largest European pension funds and screened these stock portfolios for investments in companies we had identified as problematic.
  • Danwatch sent specific questions to investors to comment on.
  • Danwatch interviewed sources and collected documentation in the West Bank regarding the companies whose activities have been connected to violations of human rights. On the basis of this material, we selected two case histories: Israeli banks and Cemex.
  • This investigation is a follow-up to previous ones conducted by Danwatch on the same subject in 2012 and 2014, but with a broader focus and with additional companies under scrutiny.

Selection of companies with potential negative effects on human rights

  • Danwatch has prepared a list of publicly traded companies that cause, contribute to, or are directly linked to violations of human rights or international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territories.
  • The list includes Israeli and multinational corporations that are present physically on occupied lands without the consent of the occupied communities, as well as companies that have direct agreements or contracts with parties that violate human rights or international humanitarian law, especially in connection with illegal settlements, the separation wall, checkpoints, or the extraction of natural resources.
  • We have chosen to focus on companies that have clear negative effects on human rights, thereby declining to examine a long list of companies with weaker and more peripheral connections, even though these companies’ activities and behaviour can still be characterised as having negative effects on human rights.
  • All the companies on Danwatch’s list have been given the opportunity to comment on the results of our research.
  • Danwatch’s list of companies is a snapshot in time that was created in Fall 2016. It therefore includes only companies that are involved in ongoing or recent negative effects on human rights.

Screening methods

The largest European pension funds were identified by the size of the assets they manage. This information is found in Investment Pension Europe’s “IPE Top 1000”. 

PORTFOLIO PENSIONFUNDS:

Alecta: December 31, 2015

ATP: June 30, 2016

Oliefondet: December 31, 2015

Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn (PFZW): December 31, 2015

Stichting Pensioenfonds ABP: September 30, 2016

Corporate responsibility in the occupied territories

Corporate responsibility under a belligerent occupation is a difficult subject for companies and investors to navigate. Here is a guide to the responsibility of businesses with connections to activities in and around settlements on occupied territory.

Danwatch uses international humanitarian law and the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP) as the point of departure for its investigation.

International humanitarian law – also known as the law of armed conflict – is codified in the Geneva Conventions of 1949.

The Geneva Conventions protect civilians in conflict zones and under military occupation, and prohibit torture, collective punishment, and the transfer of an occupying power’s own civilian population into occupied territory. Israel has signed and ratified the Geneva Conventions, which apply in the occupied Palestinian territories.

What are the UN Guiding Principles?

The UNGP build on international humanitarian law and international human rights, and offer clear guidelines regarding the responsibility of companies to prevent violations.

Companies must “a) avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts through their own activities, and address such impacts when they occur; and b) seek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products or services by their business relationships, even if they have not contributed to those impacts.”

Where transnational corporations are involved, their “home” states also have roles to play in assisting both those corporations and host states to ensure that businesses are not involved with human rights abuse, according to UNGP.

Specific UN Guidelines for Palestinian territories

The UNGP were adopted in 2011, and in 2014 a special working group published a detailed review of corporate responsibilities in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The UNGP Working Group notes that the Secretary-General has highlighted a range of human rights which are affected by Israeli settlement policies and practices, involving construction of settlements, land confiscation, zoning and planning regime, forced evictions of Palestinians and demolitions of Palestinian structures, and lack of accountability for settler violence.

These include, but are not limited to, rights and freedoms of non-discrimination, liberty, security of person and fair trial, freedom of movement, adequate housing, health, education, work and an adequate standard of living.

Any company with either direct and indirect ties to activities in the occupied Palestinian territories should be aware of the substantial risk they run of being an accessory to violations of Palestinians’ rights.

According to the UNGP Working Group, companies that carry out activities in settlements or have investments in other companies with activities in occupied territories are obliged to conduct enhanced due diligence in order to ensure that their activities do not contribute to infringements of human rights.

A company’s responsibility to respect human rights always outweighs national laws and regulations. In practice, this means that even though Israeli law permits investments and activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, these activities may still contravene the UNGP.

If a company finds negative effects on human rights in its product or supply chains, it is obliged to intervene and, if necessary, to terminate a partnership if the violations do not cease.

These are, however, guidelines, and the UNGP does not sanction companies not in compliance, which is an often stated criticism of the UNGP.

Follow-up investigation

This investigation is the latest installment in Danwatch’s series called “Business on Occupied Territory”. As in the earlier investigations into Danish investments in 2012 and 2014, Danwatch has identified a number of publicly-traded companies associated with illegal settlements, the separation wall, checkpoints, or the exploitation of natural resources in occupied Palestinian areas.

These include Israeli banks that finance settlement construction; the Mexican cement company Cemex, which operates three factories in the West Bank via an Israeli subsidiary; and the American technology firm Motorola, which supplies security solutions to settlements. The 36 companies on Danwatch’s list all help support illegal settlements, checkpoints or the separation wall via business activities in various ways. Some of these companies have actual addresses in settlements, pay tax to settlement authorities and create jobs, while others supply critical services or have direct agreements or contracts with parties that clearly and systematically violate human rights or international humanitarian law.

Danwatch has identified a total of 36 companies with investments from the top five European pension funds. Nineteen are Israeli, eight are American, and others are German, French, Swedish, Italian, Korean, and Mexican.

How we investigated

  • Danwatch prepared a list of publicly listed companies that cause, contribute to, or are directly linked to violations of human rights or international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territories, as described in UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
  • Danwatch obtained stock portfolios of the five largest European pension funds and screened these stock portfolios for investments in companies we had identified as problematic.
  • Danwatch sent specific questions to investors to comment on.
  • Danwatch interviewed sources and collected documentation in the West Bank regarding the companies whose activities have been connected to violations of human rights. On the basis of this material, we selected two case histories: Israeli banks and Cemex.
  • This investigation is a follow-up to previous ones conducted by Danwatch on the same subject in 2012 and 2014, but with a broader focus and with additional companies under scrutiny.

Selection of companies with potential negative effects on human rights

  • Danwatch has prepared a list of publicly traded companies that cause, contribute to, or are directly linked to violations of human rights or international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territories.
  • The list includes Israeli and multinational corporations that are present physically on occupied lands without the consent of the occupied communities, as well as companies that have direct agreements or contracts with parties that violate human rights or international humanitarian law, especially in connection with illegal settlements, the separation wall, checkpoints, or the extraction of natural resources.
  • We have chosen to focus on companies that have clear negative effects on human rights, thereby declining to examine a long list of companies with weaker and more peripheral connections, even though these companies’ activities and behaviour can still be characterised as having negative effects on human rights.
  • All the companies on Danwatch’s list have been given the opportunity to comment on the results of our research.
  • Danwatch’s list of companies is a snapshot in time that was created in Fall 2016. It therefore includes only companies that are involved in ongoing or recent negative effects on human rights.

Screening methods

The largest European pension funds were identified by the size of the assets they manage. This information is found in Investment Pension Europe’s “IPE Top 1000”. 

PORTFOLIO PENSIONFUNDS:

Alecta: December 31, 2015

ATP: June 30, 2016

Oliefondet: December 31, 2015

Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn (PFZW): December 31, 2015

Stichting Pensioenfonds ABP: September 30, 2016

Corporate responsibility in the occupied territories

Corporate responsibility under a belligerent occupation is a difficult subject for companies and investors to navigate. Here is a guide to the responsibility of businesses with connections to activities in and around settlements on occupied territory.

Danwatch uses international humanitarian law and the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGP) as the point of departure for its investigation.

International humanitarian law – also known as the law of armed conflict – is codified in the Geneva Conventions of 1949.

The Geneva Conventions protect civilians in conflict zones and under military occupation, and prohibit torture, collective punishment, and the transfer of an occupying power’s own civilian population into occupied territory. Israel has signed and ratified the Geneva Conventions, which apply in the occupied Palestinian territories.

What are the UN Guiding Principles?

The UNGP build on international humanitarian law and international human rights, and offer clear guidelines regarding the responsibility of companies to prevent violations.

Companies must “a) avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts through their own activities, and address such impacts when they occur; and b) seek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts that are directly linked to their operations, products or services by their business relationships, even if they have not contributed to those impacts.”

Where transnational corporations are involved, their “home” states also have roles to play in assisting both those corporations and host states to ensure that businesses are not involved with human rights abuse, according to UNGP.

Specific UN Guidelines for Palestinian territories

The UNGP were adopted in 2011, and in 2014 a special working group published a detailed review of corporate responsibilities in the occupied Palestinian territories.

The UNGP Working Group notes that the Secretary-General has highlighted a range of human rights which are affected by Israeli settlement policies and practices, involving construction of settlements, land confiscation, zoning and planning regime, forced evictions of Palestinians and demolitions of Palestinian structures, and lack of accountability for settler violence.

These include, but are not limited to, rights and freedoms of non-discrimination, liberty, security of person and fair trial, freedom of movement, adequate housing, health, education, work and an adequate standard of living.

Any company with either direct and indirect ties to activities in the occupied Palestinian territories should be aware of the substantial risk they run of being an accessory to violations of Palestinians’ rights.

According to the UNGP Working Group, companies that carry out activities in settlements or have investments in other companies with activities in occupied territories are obliged to conduct enhanced due diligence in order to ensure that their activities do not contribute to infringements of human rights.

A company’s responsibility to respect human rights always outweighs national laws and regulations. In practice, this means that even though Israeli law permits investments and activities in the occupied Palestinian territories, these activities may still contravene the UNGP.

If a company finds negative effects on human rights in its product or supply chains, it is obliged to intervene and, if necessary, to terminate a partnership if the violations do not cease.

These are, however, guidelines, and the UNGP does not sanction companies not in compliance, which is an often stated criticism of the UNGP.

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Danske Bank removes Bank Hapoalim from exclusion list https://danwatch.dk/en/danske-bank-removes-bank-hapoalim-from-exclusion-list/ https://danwatch.dk/en/danske-bank-removes-bank-hapoalim-from-exclusion-list/#respond Fri, 12 Feb 2016 11:05:08 +0000 https://danwatch.dk/danske-bank-removes-bank-hapoalim-from-exclusion-list/ It did not create much attention when Danske Bank removed Bank Hapoalim from its exclusion list at the end of 2015. An ongoing dialogue with Bank Hapoalim has convinced Danske Bank that the Israeli bank handles the dilemmas associated with running a bank in Israel in a good and responsible manner, says Thomas H. Kjærgaard, Head of RI and Corporate Governance in Danske Capital. Currently Danske Bank’s investments in Bank Hapoalim amount to 140.000 DKK via one index fund.

Blacklisted over settlements

Danske Bank excluded Bank Hapoalim from its investment portfolio following a smaller divestment in the bank in 2014. At the time the stated reason behind the exclusion was that the Israeli settlements are in violation of international law, and it is contrary to Danske Bank’s policy to invest in companies that contribute to such violations. Danske Bank had already excluded companies Danya Cebus Ltd. and Africa Israel Investments Ltd. over their involvement in settlement construction.

Bank Hapoalim has received criticism for financing construction in the settlements and acting as a guarantor of state loans to companies involved in the Jerusalem Light Rail-project, which connects the Jerusalem city center with settlement neighborhoods in occupied East Jerusalem. Danske Bank was not the only significant investor to blacklist Bank Hapoalim. Dutch pension fund PGGM and Copenhagen City Council also blacklisted Bank Hapoalim in the beginning of 2014.

‘Constructive dialogue’ behind new decision

Danwatch has contacted Danske Bank to get an explanation for the decision to remove Bank Hapoalim from its exclusion list, but Danske Bank declined our request for an interview and refers instead to an earlier written statement. The decision is based on “a thorough and constructive dialogue” surrounding the settlements, writes Head of Responsible Investments Thomas H. Kjærgaard: “It is our understanding that the bank handles the dilemmas associated with running a bank in Israel in a good and responsible manner and therefore we see no reason to continue to exclude them from our investment universe”.

 

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Tourism on stolen land https://danwatch.dk/en/tourism-on-stolen-land/ https://danwatch.dk/en/tourism-on-stolen-land/#respond Thu, 29 Jan 2015 08:54:45 +0000 https://danwatch.dk/?p=20492 According to a new report by Danwatch, seven Danish travel agencies are in breach of the country’s Marketing Act when they advertise their trips to occupied territories as “to Israel”.
The Dead Sea, Bethlehem, and beer breweries in the Golan Heights are not destinations widely associated with military occupation. Nonetheless, they are pieces of the complex puzzle that is the Israel-Palestine conflict and of its long-standing history of human rights violations and war crimes.A number of tourist destinations in the region are advertised largely as Israeli destinations by the Danish travel companies despite being located on occupied territories.
The agency Tikva Travel writes in their sales material for “Agricultural Travelling Israel” that tourists can “drive to Katzrin, where you can visit the vineyard, dairy farms and apple orchards”. However, it is not made clear to the tourists that they will find themselves in an illegal settlement on the Syrian Golan Heights, beyond Israel’s internationally recognised borders.

In breach of the Danish Marketing Act

According to the General Clause §1 of the Danish Marketing Practices Act, tour operators must “exercise good marketing practices, taking into account consumers, traders and public interests.”
According to Associate Professor in Property and Consumer Law at Aarhus University, Anne-Dorte Bruun Nielsen, the paragraph is one of several prohibitions in the Marketing Act, which the companies are in breach of:
“That of Israel and the occupied territories is a special situation, as it is not a case of domestic political circumstances but of one country occupying another, with all the consequences that follow. . It is documented that both the Danish Government and the UN have a clear position on how one should deal with this reality.
From an ethical standpoint, the travel agencies in question are not handling this properly,” she says and adds:
“This is particularly offensive in the case of those travel agencies which directly and explicitly say they comply with ethical standards and are committed to looking after the local population’s interests. As a consumer, I would feel outright deceived.”

Marketing promotes the Israeli position

During the length of the conflict, Israel has occupied a number of areas, the Syrian Golan Heights and the Palestinian West Bank among others, which the international community does not recognise as under Israeli rule. Therefore, the travel agencies’ marketing can be a problematic production beyond deceptive marketing, according to Associate Professor and expert in International Relations, Ole Wæver:
“A political and moral problem of this incorrect marketing is that the travel companies participate in promoting the Israeli narrative about the conflict, which is contrary to the interpretation of, among other bodies, the UN General Assembly and the Danish parliament”, he states.
“If Israel succeeded in attempts to reframe important aspects of the political and historical reality of the occupation, this could make the occupation and annexation of Palestinian territories invisible and, in the long term, prevent a peaceful solution.”

Settlements and kibbutzim

The travel agencies featured in the report ‘Tourism on stolen land’ organise trips to destinations in the West Bank, which is Israeli occupied territory; the historical site of Qumran, managed by the Israel Nature and Parks Authority; Israeli settlements in the Syrian Golan Heights; and also Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which situation is described by the international community as one of the biggest obstacles to peace in the Middle East.

Travel company Unitas describes the settlements to DanWatch as kibbutzim:
“On our individual travel packages, we also offer kibbutz stays, and here I can read from your description that we do not clearly describe that ’this kibbutz is an illegal settlement’. The information will of course be corrected  –  because unfortunately there are not many other accommodation options in some areas other than these kibbutzim”, says Klaus Boe Østergaard from Unitas.

Some of the travel companies which are less discerning in their marketing choices for trips to conflict areas will now change the wording of their material. Tikva Travel answers Danwatch’s request by stating that the agency had not considered the dilemma before, but now wants to rectify some of the travel descriptions:
“Following your mail, we will insert a link to Wikipedia in our mentions of city trips to Jerusalem and round trips, so people can seek more information if they wish. We will also update the description of round trips accordingly and insert a link to the  Wikipedia on of the mention of Katzrin, if necessary with a parenthesis ’(located in the annexed Golan Heights)’ says Mette White Hansen of Tikva Travel to Danwatch.

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Investment funds invest half a billion in Israeli settlements https://danwatch.dk/en/investment-funds-invest-half-a-billion-in-israeli-settlements/ https://danwatch.dk/en/investment-funds-invest-half-a-billion-in-israeli-settlements/#respond Fri, 19 Dec 2014 09:09:03 +0000 https://danwatch.dk/?p=20501

Against international law

The investment funds

Danske Invest

BankInvest

Nykredit Invest

Nordea Invest

Sydinvest

SEB Invest

Sparinvest

Jyske Invest

The investment funds

Danske Invest

BankInvest

Nykredit Invest

Nordea Invest

Sydinvest

SEB Invest

Sparinvest

Jyske Invest

The investment funds investigated by DanWatch are Danske Invest, Nykredit Invest, Bank Invest, Nordea Invest, Sydinvest, Jyske Invest, Sparinvest and SEB Invest. All investment funds are subject to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

The UN, EU and the Danish government have repeatedly warned companies against investing in the Israeli occupation. Both the Israeli settlements, the separation wall and checkpoints in the West Bank are against  international law, since they violate the human rights of the Palestinian people.

However, DanWatch has identified investments for over half a billion in companies that deliver surveillance equipment to checkpoints, cement and building materials to the maintenance of the separation wall and bulldozers to the Israeli army. The investment funds thereby risk complicity in human rights violations in the occupied territories.

Disagreement on blacklisting

In a survey made by DanWatch, all of the investment funds refer to ethical guidelines in accordance with UN conventions, however they far from agree on which companies it is ethically viable to invest in.

For instance, the investment funds Bank Invest, Jyske Invest and Sydinvest have in total  invested 13 million dkk. in Cemex, a company that owns a cement supplier to the Israeli settlements, checkpoints and the wall. For the same reason Cemex is blacklisted by Nordea Invest, which on the other hand hold investments in the Israeli bank Hapoalim Bank, that for one provides loans to construction projects in settlements and is blacklisted by Danske Invest.

With one exception, all the funds have investments in the large American corporation Caterpillar, that supplies the D9 bulldozers the Israeli army use for house demolitions. According to Human Rights Watch it was the same bulldozers which in 2010 were used to destroy buildings while civilians were still residing.

The investments continue inspite of the Danish Government’s many appeals to Danish companies to avoid activities which could benefit the Israeli settlements. In September the Danish minister of Trade and Development Cooperation, Mogens Jensen (S) stated that:
“The government has on several occasions publicly reminded that it advises Danish citizens and businesses  against engaging in arrangements which could benefit Israeli settlements. This I appropriately remind of again”.

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The Municipality of Copenhagen continues investments in Israeli settlements https://danwatch.dk/en/the-municipality-of-copenhagen-continues-investments-in-israeli-settlements/ https://danwatch.dk/en/the-municipality-of-copenhagen-continues-investments-in-israeli-settlements/#respond Thu, 18 Dec 2014 13:35:38 +0000 https://danwatch.dk/the-municipality-of-copenhagen-continues-investments-in-israeli-settlements/ The Municipality of Copenhagen invests 2,2 million dkk. in Israeli settlements, shows a new research report from DanWatch.

However, such investments stand in sharp contrast to the official  position of the municipality. This summer, when the  municipality chose to exclude the Israeli Bank Hapoalim from their investment portfolio, the message from Lord Mayor, Frank Jensen was clear:

“The West Bank is occupied territory and according to international conventions it is prohibited to drive communities away from their territory in order to reside there yourself. Unfortunately we will therefore have to withdraw investments in a number of Israeli companies with activities in the illegal Israeli settlements,” said Frank Jensen.

Millions invested in occupied territory
Currently The Municipality of Copenhagen has investments for 2,2 million dkk. in seven companies that operate on the occupied territories of Palestine. Amongst these companies is the Israeli bank Mizrahi Tefahot Bank, which provides construction projects in settlements with loans and offers financial services to the local authorities.

The municipality’s largest investment of 1,3 million dkk. is invested in Cement Roadstone Holdings, a co-owner of the cement producer Nesher, that contributes to the construction of settlements, checkpoints by the separation wall and the light rail between Jerusalem and the Israeli settlements.

The settlements have continuously been declared to be in conflict with international law by the UN and the International Court of Justice, and the investment policies of the Municipality of Copenhagen are based on UN conventions. However, the investments continue.

Repeated critique
With the newest findings, the Municipality’s investments in Israeli settlements are once again the object of public attention.

In 2012, when Danwatch first wrote about the case, it was critiqued that the company G4S was part of Copenhagen Municipality’s investment portfolio. The Danish-British security enterprise supplies security services to the settlements and to several Israeli prisons where political Palestinian prisoners are held.

Back then the municipality of Copenhagen had 12 million dkk invested in international companies with activities in the occupied territories, but today the municipality has eliminated investments for around 10 million dkk by excluding G4S from their portfolio.

In a written answer to DanWatch, the Municipality of Copenhagen states that investments in companies, whose products are applied for the maintenance of the illegally occupied territories, are in conflict with the investment policies of the municipality. However a possible exclusion will  “depend on a specific assessment” in each individual case.

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Danish stores halts sales of cosmetics from illegal settlements https://danwatch.dk/en/danish-stores-halts-sales-of-cosmetics-from-illegal-settlements/ https://danwatch.dk/en/danish-stores-halts-sales-of-cosmetics-from-illegal-settlements/#respond Mon, 29 Sep 2014 12:59:24 +0000 https://danwatch.dk/danish-stores-halts-sales-of-cosmetics-from-illegal-settlements/ Until recently the skin care product AHAVA was available in the stores of Magasin and Salling, however, the products are now dropped based on the exposure made by DanWatch that AHAVA is produced in illegal settlements.

Matas, a health care store planning to sell AHAVA products from October this year, has also chosen to retract the order because of the DanWatch report.

AHAVA is still sold in cosmetics store Sephora.

The lotions, containing minerals and mud from the Dead Sea, are produced in the settlement of Mitzpe Shalem, located on the Israeli occupied West Bank.

The Danish minister of Trade and Development Cooperation, Mogens Jensen strongly advise businesses from engaging with Israeli settlements.

“The government has on several occasions publicly reminded that it advises against Danish citizens and businesses engaging in arrangements which could benefit Israeli settlements. This I appropriately remind of again”, Mogens Jensen states to Danish TV2.dk.

Warning from the EU

In July, the EU warned European businesses against the risks linked to having economical and financial activities in settlements, as well as the risk of a damaged reputation.

The Israeli occupation of Palestine and the associated Israeli settlements on the West Bank are illegal under international law, such as the 4th Geneva Convention.

It is not illegal to trade with businesses producing goods in occupied areas, but it is ethically wrong, states associated Professor on business ethics at Aarhus University, Erik Kloppenborg Madsen.

“In business ethics, it is an inadequate argument to say that it is not in itself illegal to trade goods from settlements. The trading with Israeli settlements is unethical because one indirectly supports activities, which are assessed as illegal by the international community”, he states.

Production in settlement

The stores purchase AHAVA products through a Danish importer, Trademade Cosmetics, who confirms to DanWatch that the production of the beauty products occurs in Mitzpe Shalem on the West Bank.

Mitzpe Shalem is located in the Jordan Valley close to the Dead Sea in the eastern part of the Israeli occupied West Bank.

However more and more Danish companies increasingly debate trading with products from settlements, Erik Kloppenborg Madsen tells:

“There is a clear tendency towards businesses and investors avoiding trading with or investing in products from settlements due to ethical concerns. Particularly the last few years, more companies and investors have become clearer in terms of the problem.”
COOP and Dansk Supermarked have earlier stated that they do not sell products, which have been produced in settlements on the Israeli occupied West Bank.

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G4S pulls out of Israeli Prisons https://danwatch.dk/en/g4s-pulls-out-of-israeli-prisons/ https://danwatch.dk/en/g4s-pulls-out-of-israeli-prisons/#respond Tue, 16 Sep 2014 13:45:38 +0000 https://danwatch.dk/g4s-pulls-out-of-israeli-prisons/ Torture and the imprisonment of children and political prisoners. Until last week, the Danish-British security company G4S supplied technology and thus contributed, according to Amnesty International, among others, to systematic human rights violations in the Israeli security services. However, that ends now.

At the annual general meeting at G4S last week, the company announced that it will not be renewing its contracts with the Israeli prison services when they expire over the course of the next three years.

In 2010, DanWatch revealed that G4S had contracts with the Israeli occupying force in terms of supply of guard services and technology to checkpoints and the wall between the West Bank and Israel, which was deemed to be contrary to international law back in 2004. The contracts also obligate G4S to supply security technology to Israeli prisons in the West Bank and in Israel, where human rights organizations have documented the use of torture, the imprisonment of miners and the systematic imprisonment of political prisoners.

Over the past few years, hunger strikes and serious human rights violations inside the prisons have sparked international attention to contracts between G4S and the Israeli security services. G4S has not had personel stationed in the prisons on a daily basis, instead it supplies and services infrastructure.

In May of last year, G4S terminated its supply of security and surveillance equipment to the Israeli Ofer prison in the West Bank, the Israeli ‘E1’ police station in the West Bank as well as checkpoints along the wall that separates the West Bank from Jerusalem and Israel.

The remaining G4s contracts, which have been active so far, will now be phased out over the course of the next three years.

What remains are the company’s contracts with private businesses that stand for civil infrastructure in the settlements, such as banks and supermarkets. According to the 4 th Geneva Convention, it is illegal for an occupying force to move an occupied population to the territory of the occupying force; an international law that Israel violates through the imprisonment of Palestinians in Israel.

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G4S: We’ll stay in prisons and settlements https://danwatch.dk/en/g4s-well-stay-in-prisons-and-settlements/ https://danwatch.dk/en/g4s-well-stay-in-prisons-and-settlements/#respond Thu, 13 Jun 2013 08:36:14 +0000 https://danwatch.dk/g4s-well-stay-in-prisons-and-settlements/ So far it has been impossible to get details about exactly which contracts G4S intends to pull out of and which activities in connection with the controversial occupation of Palestine they intend to continue.

But now Media Relations Manager Piers Zangana confirms to DanWatch that G4S is continuing its contracts with private and commercial clients in Israeli settlements and its contracts with Israeli prisons. Piers Zangana says to DanWatch  that G4S is withdrawing from the servicing of security and surveillance equipment in the Israeli prison Ofer placed in the Palestinian West Bank, the Israeli E1 prison in the West Bank and checkpoints along the wall that separates the West Bank from Jerusalm and Israel.

Piers Zangana stresses that G4S does not have contracts involving the total operation of Israeli prisons.

 Amnesty International, who them selves have ended their contracts with G4S, are not satisfied:

”It is worrying that G4S has chosen only to pull out of one Israeli prison on the West Bank and not from the Ktziot, Megiddo and Damon prisons in Israel, all of which contain Palestinian prisoners,” says Trine Christensen, Vice-Secretary General of Amnesty International Denmark, and adds:

”It is a violation of the Geneva convention that Palestinian prisoners are kept in Israel. Furthermore, many of the Palestinian prisoners in Israel have received administrative imprisonment without having been sentenced.”

Pulling out of selected activities after media storm

G4S became subject to a media storm when DanWatch in 2010 revealed the company’s association with the Israeli occupation of Palestine. After pressure from NGOs, G4S announced that they would pull out of activities in Israel and Palestine, but without going into details.

In an interview with Jyllands-Posten, Thomas Medom, spokesperson on political affairs of the Socialist People’s Party in Aarhus city council, was pleased when G4S announced retractions, because the city council has large contracts with the company. Today, after the details have been disclosed, he says:

”It is disappointing that G4S still actively supports the illegal and deeply harmful occupation of the Palestinian people. FN has repeatedly criticised the settlement policy and the large number of political prisoners, and it is also Danish policy to denounce the settlements. This does not fit well with the fact that G4S continues to play an active role in Israel’s violations of human rights.”

Also, Thomas Medom hopes that the new information will put the criticism, which subsided after G4S’ last announcement, back on the agenda:

”I hope that the Danish state and the major municipalities will once again put pressure on G4S since none of us are interested in being associated with the Israel-Palestine conflict. We need a more peaceful development in the Middle East, and settlements and the extensive use of political prisoners are the polar opposite of a peaceful development.”

den store brug af politiske fanger er det stik modsatte af en fredelig udvikling.”

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Are your savings invested in illegal settlements? https://danwatch.dk/en/are-your-savings-invested-in-illegal-settlements/ https://danwatch.dk/en/are-your-savings-invested-in-illegal-settlements/#respond Tue, 20 Nov 2012 10:44:08 +0000 https://danwatch.dk/are-your-savings-invested-in-illegal-settlements/ Danes with savings in pension funds or investment funds most probably have some of their money invested in companies which support Israeli settlements on Palestinian land. According to a new survey by DanWatch, the ten biggest pension funds and the eight biggest investment funds in Denmark each have approx. EUR 150 billion invested in companies that take part in the establishment and operation of illegal settlements.

The UN has several times declared the Israeli settlement a violation of international law, and there is unanimous agreement in the EU that the settlements are illegal. Therefore pension funds and investment funds cannot ignore the criticism, explains Steen Valentin, associate professor at Copenhagen Business School and expert in responsible investments.

”When international law, UN conventions or human rights are violated, there is no other way around it. The companies must consider the issue and ask themselves: Where do we draw the line? Do we really want to support this cause?” he says.

Investors deny responsibility – UN special rapporteur disagrees

The pension funds and investment funds explain DanWatch that their investments comply with the UN principles for responsible investment, and that the share holdings are evaluated continually in relation to the principles of the Global Compact. The Global Compact is a UN initiative whereby companies commit themselves to comply with basic standards within the fields of human rights, environment, anti-corruption and workers’ rights.

However, in a new report, UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk stresses that the principles in the Global Compact are incommensurable with the companies’ involvement in the settlements. Therefore Falk urges people to ”boycott, sell shares and impose sanctions against companies until their operations are brought in compliance with international rules and standards.”

Thomas Torp, Director of Public Affairs at PFA, the biggest pension fund in Denmark, admits that there is a problem but does not believe that selling shares will make a difference.

”We fully recognise that the there are considerable ethical problems associated with investing in companies operating on the West Bank,” he says to DanWatch. ”But generally, it is our view that we as investors solve nothing by selling our shares. We believe that we contribute best by conducting active ownership and by trying to influence these companies.”

Thomas Torp confirms to DanWatch that PFA is currently engaged in cases involving some of the companies. However, he refuses to tell which.

Construction machinery, infrastructure, surveillance…

The pension funds and investment funds have huge sums invested in companies that have supplied construction machinery and cement for the construction of settlements as well as the West Bank barrier. Banks with branches in settlements and suppliers of telecommunications, infrastructure and security services are also on the list.

The Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit is among the more controversial investments: Elbit is the company behind a specially developed surveillance system along the barrier, which has been ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice. This has prompted several Danish pension funds to ban the company, just like the Norwegian state-owned pension fund Oljefondet has done. Nevertheless, Denmark’s third biggest pension fund, Sampension, has EUR 400,000 invested in Elbit.

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Danish universities work with illegal settlements https://danwatch.dk/en/danish-universities-work-with-illegal-settlements/ https://danwatch.dk/en/danish-universities-work-with-illegal-settlements/#respond Sun, 11 Nov 2012 10:32:46 +0000 https://danwatch.dk/danish-universities-work-with-illegal-settlements/ It is not just Danish companies, but also Danish universities that have connections to illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine.

The Technical University of Denmark (DTU) is working together with Ariel University, located in the settlement by the same name. According to DTU the collaboration dates back to the 1990s.

After DanWatch presented the information to the leadership of DTU, president of DTU Anders Bjarklev chose to stop the collaboration immediatley:
“We have ended the cooperation immediately after we were made aware of it,” he says: The money that was devoted to analyses in the laboratories of Ariel University has been suspended and will be paid back to the fund that supplied the finances.”

Acoording to DTU’s president, it is problematic for DTU to be associated with illegal settlements:

“If you fund analyses in laboratories at Ariel university, it can be seen as supporting a settlement, something we will not,” says Anders Bjarklev.

Minister for Foreign Affairs happy with DTU’s decision

Tecnical University of Denmark and Ariel University

The Technical University of Denmark and Ariel University is working on a research project on cancer treatment. The project is funded by the Carlsberg Foundation and Frænkel Foundation.

What is the connection to the settlements? 
Ariel University is located in the settlement of the same name. Ariel is one of the largest settlements in the West Bank with 17,688 Israeli settlers.

Tecnical University of Denmark and Ariel University

The Technical University of Denmark and Ariel University is working on a research project on cancer treatment. The project is funded by the Carlsberg Foundation and Frænkel Foundation.

What is the connection to the settlements? 
Ariel University is located in the settlement of the same name. Ariel is one of the largest settlements in the West Bank with 17,688 Israeli settlers.

That decision is Foreign Minister Villy Søvndal satisfied with: “We do not want to Danish scientific institutions participating in activities that may help to maintain the illegal settlements. If there has been any doubt about our position on this matter, the case of DTU is a good opportunity to reiterate. And I am satisfied with DTU’s decision, “said Søvndal.

Roskilde University: EU has endorsed cooperation with settlement

Roskilde University is part of a research project where Dead Sea Laboratories, which is behind the Ahava cosmetics products, participate. Dead Sea Laboratories is located in the settlement of Mitzpe Shalem and use natural resources from Palestinian territory according to the Israeli army.

According to Roskilde University president, Ib Poulsen, one does not need assess the ethics, if the research project is approved by the EU:”According to regulation of EU research projects by EU, including the EU’s approval of the projects, it is sufficient guarantee of the project’s legality for Danish participation, and thus a sufficiently non-controversial basis for a Danish university or another Danish public institution involved,” he says.

Universities’ social responsibility

Nanoretox: Roskilde University

NanoReTox is a research project of 11 international research institutes from Denmark (Roskilde Univesitet), USA, Israel, England, Spain, Italy, France and Belgium. The research project runs from December 2008 to November 2012, and is granted 3.2 million euros by the EU.

What is the connection to settlements? Ahava, also known as the Dead Sea Laboratories is one of the participants in the research project NanoReTox. Ahava is located in the settlement of Mitzpe Shalem in the West Bank. Ahava has permission to excavate mud from the occupied West Bank since 2004 according to the Israeli army’s Civil Administration. This is according to research organization Who Profits a violation of international law.

Nanoretox: Roskilde University

NanoReTox is a research project of 11 international research institutes from Denmark (Roskilde Univesitet), USA, Israel, England, Spain, Italy, France and Belgium. The research project runs from December 2008 to November 2012, and is granted 3.2 million euros by the EU.

What is the connection to settlements? Ahava, also known as the Dead Sea Laboratories is one of the participants in the research project NanoReTox. Ahava is located in the settlement of Mitzpe Shalem in the West Bank. Ahava has permission to excavate mud from the occupied West Bank since 2004 according to the Israeli army’s Civil Administration. This is according to research organization Who Profits a violation of international law.

According to Mads Øvlisen, chairman of the new Dansih Mediation and Complaint Institution for Responsible Business Conduct, universities do have social responsibilities like companies:”I strongly believe that universities have a duty to look at who their partners are, and have certain demands for partners,” he says, but points out that it can be difficult to make an ethical checklist that can cover everything: “It is a difficult balancing act, as it must be allowed, in scientific situations, to explore taboo or controversial areas.”

Ethical guidelines for universities on the way?

At DTU ethical guidelines for research are in the making, giving the university better possibilities to avoid working with problematic partners in the future: “You can not make a definitive ethical checklist for research collaborations, but you can at least create an awareness list so when the different departments begin collaborations, they know that you need to have special attention to certain conditions that a scientific researcher might not immediately see,” says president at DTU, Anders Bjerklev. At Roskilde University, the development of ethical guidelines have been launched, but guidelines for research partners and cooperates was recently abandoned by the scientific panel. “As far as guidelines for whom the university will and can work with, this is so much of a grey area, it is FOU’s (the Scientific Panel) opinon that you will never be able to maintain principles that can accommodate all political, moral and ethical considerations in relation to regimes or commercial enterprises behavior, ” the panel recently wrote to Roskilde University’s Academic Council. But this is not the last word on the matter, Mihail Larsen, member of the Academic Council, promises:”It is unambitious to give up that way. It is possible to make principles of what a researcher should not do, and in this case you should not work with an occupying power, “he says and continues: “At the Academic Council’s meeting, it was agreed that the scientific panel’s conclusion was not satisfactory and that guidelines need to be made.”

 

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ISS provides security services in illegal settlements https://danwatch.dk/en/iss-provides-security-services-in-illegal-settlements/ https://danwatch.dk/en/iss-provides-security-services-in-illegal-settlements/#respond Sat, 09 Jun 2012 09:21:15 +0000 https://danwatch.dk/iss-provides-security-services-in-illegal-settlements/ ISS, one of the largest companies in Denmark confirms to DanWatch that they provide various services for settlements in the Golan Heights and the West Bank – areas occupied by Israel, whose ownership is not acknowledged by the UN. According to experts and politicians, this is incompatible with ISS’ ethical profile.

Danish CEO of ISS Maarten van Engeland is chairman of the Danish CSR Foundation. The foundation organises the CSR Awards, which honour Danish corporations. At the same time, the company operates in conflict zones which, according to Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs Villy Søvndal, ”pose a serious obstacle to peace.”

DanWatch now reveal that ISS is also a player in the security industry in settlements – activities for which the security firm G4S has previously been criticised. And that is no good when trying to uphold an ethical profile, according to MEP Margrete Auken: ”It would be beneficial for the peace process if decent international companies signalled that they would not operate in settlements,” she says about ISS.

Head of Group Communications at ISS Kenth Kærhøg confirms that ISS through subsidiaries carries out catering, cleaning, pest control and security services for Israeli customers in Palestine’s West Bank, and adds that ”ISS usually does not operate in conflict areas.”

ISS in Israel

• In the West Bank, ISS’ security firm in Israel, Kfir, services a multinational supermarket chain in an illegal settlement, as well as an Israeli factory in the settlement of Ariel.
• ISS has full ownership of more than 14 Israeli subsidiaries, among them Kfir.
• ISS has been member of the UN Global Compact since 1999.

ISS in Israel

• In the West Bank, ISS’ security firm in Israel, Kfir, services a multinational supermarket chain in an illegal settlement, as well as an Israeli factory in the settlement of Ariel.
• ISS has full ownership of more than 14 Israeli subsidiaries, among them Kfir.
• ISS has been member of the UN Global Compact since 1999.

Despite principles of not working in conflict areas, ISS is not worried about operating in illegal settlements, says Kenth Kærhøg. ”ISS believes that one can work in the West Bank and in Golan without being part of a conflict or discussion of territorial rights.”

Jeff Halper, Director of Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, an organisation with expertise on West Bank infrastructure, disagrees: “It is not true that you can operate in settlements and be a part of the conflict, because settlements are the heart of the conflict. ”

“The private security companies are part of a strategy to lower the Israeli military profile in the West Bank to normalize the settlements. Part of that process is privatization, including security. So whether you are involved in perimeter security or securing private companies, you are a part of normalisation of settlements,” Jeff Halper says, “but the problem is, it is not normal. The occupation is illegal and all of the settlements are illegal.”

ISS has signed UN Global Compact, a set of guidelines on corporate governance. But this requires special precautions, says CSR expert Mads Øvlisen: ”In my view, it is obvious that companies operating in conflict zones have special obligations and a special information duty. In principle, you should make sure you are not complicit in causing damage/violating human rights and that your activity promotes peace and development in the area,” says Mads Øvlisen. ”Therefore these considerations should be included in the due diligence that must be carried out, which often should include a dialogue with local stakeholders, among these local minorities, and that members of the Global Compact provide exhaustive and comprehensible information on the company’s policy and activities in the area.”

However, in Margrete Auken’s view, corporate operations in settlements are incompatible with the UN Global Compact: ”ISS is not contributing to the credibility of UN Global Compact if they operate in settlements, while being blind and deaf to what is going on.”

The news about ISS comes at a time when especially the focus of EU is on the Israeli settlements. On May 14 2012 the foreign ministers of the EU levelled their harshest criticism yet of these settlements during a meeting on the Middle East peace process. During the meeting, the ministers emphasised the illegality of the settlements and condemned the escalating violence perpetrated by settlers towards their Palestinian neighbours.

Other Danish security firms operating in settlements

ISS’ involvement in illegal settlements in many ways resembles the story involving British -Danish security firm G4S that DanWatch brought to light in 2011. G4S, too, provides security services for companies located in West Bank settlements.

G4S’ presence prompted former Minister of Foreign Affairs Mogens Lykketoft to say:

”Many will see it as Denmark being involved, since it is a Danish listed company. Therefore it is important for the government to stress that it is not Danish policy and to urge the company to pull out of the West Bank.”

In connection with the affair, former Minister of Foreign Affairs Lene Espersen urged G4S ”not to carry out activities which risk contributing to the continuation of illegal settlements.”

Kenth Kærhøg from ISS stresses that ISS don’t have many employees in the West Bank and the Golan Heights.

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