By Erik Hagen
Photo: Ammar Awad / Reuters. Picture shows the settlement Ma'aleh Adumim, which was constructed by Africa Israel Investments.
The two Israeli firms were excluded from the portfolios of the Norwegian governments pension fund due to their construction work on West Bank, since they contribute in “grossly unethical activity”, according to a press release from the Minister of Finances, Sigbjørn Johnsen today.
Norwatch revealed last year that the Pension Fund had invested in Africa Israel and Danya Cebus, which constructs and finances settlements on occupied Palestinian land. 31 December 2008, the investment in Africa Israel Investments was 5,5 million Norwegian kroners. One year later, the value of the investment was 7,1 million. But now, the shares are sold, according to the press release.
Africa Israel Investments Ltd. is the parent company of several subsidiaries with interests in property development, infrastructure and energy. The company holds a majority stake in Danya Cebus, a construction company involved in developing settlements in occupied Palestinian territory.
The Fund's Council on Ethics emphasises that the construction of settlements in occupied areas is a violation of the Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War (the fourth Geneva Convention) and that the Pension Fund runs an unacceptable risk of contributing to serious violations of individual rights in situations of war and conflict by investing in these two companies.
“The Council on Ethics bases its recommendation on the fact that the international community is united in the view that the area east of the 1967 line is occupied territory and as such comes under the purview of the fourth Geneva Convention. Several United Nations Security Council resolutions and an International Court of Justice advisory opinion have concluded that the construction of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory is prohibited under this Convention. I have therefore accepted the recommendation of the Council on Ethics and am excluding Africa Israel Investments and Danya Cebus from the fund’s investment portfolio,” says Minister of Finance Sigbjørn Johnsen in the press release.
The Malaysian firm Samling Global was thrown out because the fund’s Council on Ethics finds that the company has contributed to illegal logging and severe environmental damage. 31 December 2009, the investment of the Norwegian governmetn in Samling amounted to 8,1 million Norwegian kroners.
Also Danske Bank sold Africa Israel-shares earlier this year following the revelations by Norwatch.
The press release of the Norwegian Ministry of Finances, says nothing of the investment in Africa Israel Investment’s sister firm Africa Israel Properties. By 31 December 2009, the Norwegian government owned 2,2 million kroners in Africa Israel Properties.
Regarding Africa Israel Properties Ltd
Africa Israel Investments Ltd., which is now thrown out of the fund, owns also 68% of the shares in another company, called Africa Israel Properites Ltd. The fund keeps the investment in this company.
Africa Israel Properties Ltd. is a real estate company which owns and leases office buildings and other commercial properties in Israel and Europe.
"There is no indication that the company has properties or other activities in the occupied territories", states the Council on Ethics in its recommendation.