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Dutch pension fund says no reason to boycott Israeli banks
By HERB KEINON
05/02/2014
After Danske Bank decides to boycott Bank Hapoalim, ABP fund says it sees no reason to cut ties with 3 Israeli banks.
 
Dutch pension fund ABP, one of the largest pension funds in the world, announced on Wednesday that after looking into the matter it sees no reason to end its relationship with three Israeli banks.

The fund’s announcement runs firmly against the grain of the increasing public perception that Israel is on the verge of wholesale boycotts by European financial institutions.

In January, another Dutch pension firm, PGGM, announced it was divesting from five Israeli banks, because of “their involvement in financing Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.”

ABP posted an announcement on its website on Wednesday saying that publicity about boycotts of Israeli banks has led the fund to explain why it does not exclude Israeli banks from its investments.

The fund said that its environmental, social and corporate governance policy – a catchall phrase for what is known as socially responsible investing – is based on two objective criteria: international law and the principles laid down in the UN Global Compact.

The compact is a policy initiative for businesses that want to align their operations with 10 universally accepted principles in the areas of human rights, labor, environment and anti-corruption.

The fund said its directorate discusses these matters each year and it has concluded that the Israeli banks – Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi and Mizrahi- Tefahot – “do not act contrary to international law and regulations,” and that there are no court rulings indicating a need to end investments in them.

Danske Bank, the largest in Denmark, recently said on its website that it is boycotting Bank Hapoalim for “legal and ethical” reasons. The Stockholm- headquartered Nordea Bank, the largest in Scandinavia, has asked for clarifications from Bank Leumi and Mizrahi- Tefahot regarding their activities beyond the Green Line.

It was later reported that Danske Bank featured unflatteringly in a State Department cable from May 12, 2009 – released by WikiLeaks – which said that the bank had a “correspondent account” with Tanchon, a North Korean trading company that has been involved in financing a ballistic missile sale to an Iranian group.

ABP is a pension fund for some 2.8 million government, public and education workers, with invested capital last year of some €292 billion.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu on Wednesday again slammed countries for applying a double standard to the country, saying Israel is “a light unto the nations, but only for those in the international community who want to see the light, because there is a lot of hypocrisy.”

Netanyahu, speaking at a ceremony recognizing fighters against human trafficking, said that Israel battles for human rights and does everything to preserve human dignity amid a “struggle against us with endless cruelty.”

Israel is characterized as a war criminal and serial violator of human rights, while “around us the most horrible things are taking place,” he said.

“This hypocrisy harms efforts to eradicate the evil and promote the good. But we will not be deterred, we will continue our efforts to be a light among the nations, if only they want to see the light,” the prime minister said.
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