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Danish companies warned about settlement investments

A new report from the investigative journalism team at DanWatch gives more disturbing evidence of Danish businesses helping to keep the wheels of Israel's military occupation of Palestine turning. Danish investment funds invest 689 million Danish Krone (around £67 million) in companies with activities in illegal Israeli settlements on the West Bank, it claims. These funds, therefore, contribute to the maintenance of the apparatus of the Israeli occupation, including the Separation ("Apartheid") Wall and the settlements.

In addition, say DanWatch, more than 1 billion krone is invested by Danish pension funds in companies either building or operating military checkpoints, the Wall or settlements. Such investments have been exposed in a previous DanWatch report. See, for example. Businesses such as G4S and ISS have reduced their activities in the occupied territories following global publicity about their support for the occupation, but have no plans to end it altogether. Investment in companies profiting from the occupation is illegal under Danish law.

The investment funds named by DanWatch are: Danske Invest, Nykredit Invest, Bank Invest, Nordea Invest, Sydinvest, Jyske Invest, Sparinvest and SEB Invest, all of which are subject to the UN's Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. Indeed, the UN, EU and the Danish government have warned companies repeatedly against investing in the Israeli occupation. The settlements, Separation Wall and checkpoints in the West Bank breach international law as they violate the human rights of the Palestinian people.

Despite this, the new report identifies huge Danish investment in companies that deliver surveillance equipment to checkpoints, cement and building materials to the maintenance of the Separation Wall and bulldozers to the Israeli army. They risk accusations of complicity in human rights violations in the occupied territories.

The DanWatch report reveals the contradictions inherent in investments by the companies mentioned therein. All, for example, claim that they stick to the UN guidelines upon which they base their "ethical investments". Bank Invest, Jyske Invest and Sydinvest support Cemex, which owns a supplier of cement to Israeli settlements, checkpoints and the Wall. Cemex is blacklisted by Nordea Invest, which has holdings in the Israeli Hapoalim Bank which, in turn, provides loans to construction projects in settlements and is, as a result, blacklisted by Danske Invest.

According to DanWatch all of the funds, bar one, have investments in the US firm Caterpillar. This supplies the D9 bulldozers used by the Israeli army for its devastating and sometimes lethal house demolitions. According to Human Rights Watch, it was these bulldozers that were used in 2010 to destroy buildings while civilians were still inside.

The investments continue despite Danish government appeals for companies to avoid engaging with business involved in, or benefiting from, the Israeli settlements. "The government," said Trade and Development Minister Mogens Jensen last September, "has on several occasions reminded the public that Danish citizens and businesses should not participate in activity and business that can benefit the Israeli settlements. I will say this yet again."

Interestingly, Copenhagen Municipality has a total of 2.21 million Dkr invested in seven companies which contribute to the construction or operation of checkpoints, the Wall or settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The coverage given to illegal investment in Israeli settlements has had the effect of Ahava beauty products being taken off the shelves by Danish retailers. A number of supermarkets sell fruit bought from Israeli exporter Mehadrin, which has produce grown in Israel and in the settlements. The Coop supermarket chain now insists on Israeli exporters signing a formal agreement that they will only supply produce from the exporter's sources in Israel, not the settlements.

Another example of a settlement-based company affected by a boycott is Sodastream, which has had to move production to Israel this year following negative publicity in 2014. A number of Danish companies still stock Sodastream products.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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