The decision by a large Dutch pension investment company to divest from five
Israeli banks is a “sanctimonious move intended to pander to a certain nefarious
trend in public opinion,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said on
“It appears that people who make the decisions for the fund
care more about showing an excess of self-righteousness than any sense of
Catering light-headedly to the Israeli- bashing fashion could
quickly backfire,” he said.
Palmor explained that if the company followed
“one trend,” there would be many other causes that others would seek to
The PGGM company announced its decision to divest on its website
on Wednesday from Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, First International Bank of Israel,
Israel Discount Bank and Mizrahi Tefahot Bank.
According to the
statement, PGGM has for several years “been in dialogue with these banks. The
reason for this engagement was their involvement in financing Israeli
settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.”
This was a concern,
the statement said, “as the settlements in the Palestinian territories are
considered illegal under international humanitarian law.”
PGGM is among
the Netherlands’ largest pension fund managers, with assets in excess of €153
billion ($210b.). Its dealing with Israeli banks amounts to tens of millions of
euros, according to Haaretz.
The company also cited its “responsible
investment policy,” which excludes investing in bodies involved in “violations
of fundamental human rights and labor rights.”
But according to a
document released by the company in 2013, PGGM investments abroad include two
Chinese banks – Bank of China and China Construction Bank – with offices and
activities in Tibet, which is widely seen internationally as land occupied by
China. PGGM invests in China Petroleum & Chemical Corporation, or Sinopec,
which is exploring for oil in Tibet.
PGGM’s international investments
also include the Malaysian palm oil producer Sime Darby, which last year paid a
million dollars in reparations to villagers in Liberia amid accusations that the
firm had violated their human rights and confiscated their property.
spokesman Maurice Wilbrink declined to answer JTA’s questions on the scope of
his company’s investments in Chinese firms active in Tibet, explaining that the
figures were confidential.
It is the latest in a string of large Dutch
companies that have cut off ties with Israeli entities.
Last month, the
Foreign Ministry summoned the Dutch ambassador to protest what it said were
“ambiguous” statements by the Dutch Foreign Ministry creating a pro-boycott of
Israel atmosphere in the Netherlands. That protest came after Dutch water giant
Vitens canceled cooperation with Israel’s water corporation Mekorot because of
alleged infractions of international law.
The Dutch Foreign Ministry
subsequently issued a statement saying it “opposes any boycott of Israeli
companies or institutions, in line with its standing policy.”
August, another Dutch firm, the Royal HaskoningDHV engineering company, canceled
its participation in building a sewage treatment plant because it was across the
Reuters contributed to this report.