By Erik Hagen
(This English version was published 16 February 2010)
(Foto: Ammar Awad / Reuters)
Norwatch has during the last year covered Norwegian investments in the Israeli firms Africa-Israel Investments and Africa-Israel Properties. The two companies are behind the construction of illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land, and both public and private investors in Norway have for a long time placed money in the controversial firms.
In January, Danske Bank – which is the Danish owner of Fokus Bank operating on the Norwegian market – excluded Africa-Israel from its own portfolios.
This is the second time that Danske Bank acts in blacklisting Africa-Israel Investments. March last year, Norwatch revealed that the Scandinavian investors Skandiabanken, Storebrand and Fokus Bank/Danske Bank offered its clients to place money in the same company. The investments could be done through the fund BlackRock Emerging Europe Fund, which the three banks marketed on their homepages.
The three banks hence put pressure on BlackRock to have Africa-Israel thrown out of the Emerging Europe fund. The foreign bank did as they were asked, and divested some time between June and August last year.
The Israeli ambassador to Denmark called Danske Bank’s decision “unfortunate”.
“What they really do is to play politics, not being concerned about ethical values or violations of international norms”, the ambassador told the website Business.dk.
The Norwegian governments Pension Fund had as of 31 December 2008 invested a total of 6,6 million Norwegian kroners in the two Africa-Israel companies. After Norwatch revealed the controversial investment March last year, the Norwegian Ministry of Finances has still not given any announcements of a blacklisting, the way that Danske Bank has done now.