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Fund ditches security firm over West bank activities

2009

One of the world’s largest sovereign wealth funds has sold its stake in an Israeli defence technologies company after blacklisting it.

Norway’s Norwegian Government Pension Fund removed Elbit Systems, which supplies surveillance equipment for the Israeli West bank barrier, from its investment portfolio for human rights breaches.

The council of the €276billion ($405bn, £246bn) fund, also known as the Oil Fund, found that Elbit had contributed to serious violations of ‘fundamental ethical norms’.  

Norway’s finance minister Kristin Halvorsen, announcing the sale of €4.2m worth of Elbit shares, said: ‘We do not wish to fund companies that so directly contribute to violations of international humanitarian law.’

The International Court of Justice ruled in 2004 that the 420-mile long barrier – breaches the Fourth Geneva Convention. Halvorsen said that, though the government’s ethics council bases its evaluation on the conduct of companies, not on that of states, Elbit’s activities are linked to ‘violations of human rights’.

She said: ‘The surveillance system has been specially designed in close collaboration with the buyer and has no other applications. Furthermore, Elbit is clearly aware of exactly where and how the system is intended to be used.’

The council’s report said: ‘The freedom of movement of the people living in the occupied territory has been unacceptably restricted. The International Court of Justice has pointed out the obligation of all state parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention ... Norwegian authorities act in accordance with this.’

The fund had reviewed its Israeli holdings this year in the aftermath of Israel’s invasion of the Gaza Strip, in which 1500 people were killed, including about 300 children.

Israel’s ambassador to Norway said he was ‘deeply disappointed’ by the fund’s decision.



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