Norwegian oil fund excludes ‘unethical’ Israeli companies

Two Israeli firms have been excluded from Norway’s USD 450 billion sovereign wealth fund for building Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land. Both the Africa Israel Investments holding firm and its construction subsidiary Danya Cebus have been blacklisted by the Norwegian Ministry of Finance.

In a statement on Monday, the ministry said that constructing Israeli settlements on occupied land “is a violation of the Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilian persons in time of war”.

Norway’s repository of oil revenues, the Government Pension Fund Global, follows strict guidelines set out by the government. The ministry also denies investment to companies that damage the environment, abuse workers’ rights, and make nuclear weapons or cluster bombs.

The parties in Norway’s centre-left government coalition largely support the exclusions, which now total almost 50 firms. Opposition Progress Party member Christian Tybring-Gjedde, however, said fund officials are caving in to Socialist Left Party demands to shun Israeli businesses.

“They are very anti-Israel, and this is one of their favourite pursuits, criticising Israel for everything,” said Tybring-Gjedde in a Reuters report. He added that the ministry should also cut investments in the Arab world, where he said minorities also face human rights violations, if they want to be consistent.

Senior adviser for the wealth fund’s Council on Ethics, Aslak Schanke, however, pointed out that Norwegian investments in Israel have increased tenfold to NOK 2bn (USD 320.8m) over the last three years. “In no way is there a boycott of Israeli firms,” he said. “That is an absurd claim. We look at what companies do, not where they are from.”

Africa Israel says it is no longer building West Bank settlements and has called the actions of the pension fund “baseless”.

“We are not claiming that they are necessarily involved in this today,” countered Schanke. “We believe that given the past practices of the company, there is an unacceptable risk of a future contribution to such activities.”

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