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BlackRock: there can be no compromise with evil

June 25, 2024 at 11:45 am

Pro-Palestinian activists hold signs during a protest in front of BlackRock headquarters in San Francisco, California on November 29, 2023 [Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]

The International Movement for a Just World (JUST) empathises with the concerns expressed by several NGOs and public figures in Malaysia over the involvement of the investment fund manager BlackRock in Malaysia’s infrastructure development.

BlackRock has extensive investments in companies allied closely to Israel’s arms industry. It has, for example, a 7.4 per cent stake in Lockheed Martin, a US defence contractor that has played a critical role in arming the Israeli military. This is why Lockheed has been accused of complicity in the barbaric genocide in Gaza which is now in its eighth month. The CEO of BlackRock, Larry Fink, is known to be a staunch supporter of Israel in its ongoing massacre of Palestinians.

The company has earned the wrath of former Federal Ministers in Malaysia such as Khairy Jamaluddin and Saifuddin Abdullah, as well as a former legislative assembly member, Mukhriz Mahathir, and the head of the Malaysian branch of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, Dr Nazari Ismail, mainly because it is now the owner of Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), a partner in a consortium to manage Malaysia’s 39 airports. Although GIP holds only 30 per cent of shares in the consortium — Khazanah Nasional, the government’s investment arm, and the Employees Provident Fund (EPF) own the other 70 per cent — GIP, given its expertise in airport management, will inevitably play a significant role.

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Is it because of this expertise that GIP was brought into the partnership? There are other firms with a comparable level of expertise that could have been considered.

Why should we collaborate with a company owned by an entity that has such close ties to the Israeli and US military establishments?

It is a matter of serious concern because it is Malaysia’s airports — not restaurants or supermarkets — that are now being managed by a company owned by BlackRock. At stake is the fact that airport management places some highly sensitive data at the command of its managers; the Malaysian authorities should have realised at the very outset that this is a transaction that has profound security ramifications.

What makes BlackRock’s purchase of GIP and ipso facto its status now as partial owner of Malaysian airports all the more bizarre is the fact that Malaysian Airports Berhad (MAHB), which hitherto managed our airports, had no sound financial reason to sell off its shares to a US-based fund manager with close ties to Israel. It was reported in February 2024 that MAHB recorded “a net profit of RM 543.2 million for the financial year ending 31 December, 2023. This is a huge jump from the previous year, when the company made a profit of RM 187.2m, and also higher than the profit it made in 2019 before the Covid-19 pandemic paralysed the aviation sector worldwide.”

That there was no financial justification for the sale of MAHB shares is reinforced further by its excellent management performance. As its acting CEO Mohamed Rastam Shahrom was quoted as saying by MalaysiaNow on 20 June: “We have worked hard to deliver value to our stakeholders in the past year. Amidst improved operating conditions we have managed to deliver improved financial performance, and we are making good progress in our airport modernisation, digitalisation and commercial rejuvenation programmes.”

Some supporters of the move to bring in BlackRock and GIP opine that the real reason is linked to geopolitics. Since we have strengthened our relations with China in recent years, our leaders feel that we should also develop further our ties with the US. Balancing relations with the two superpowers should not mean a readiness to sacrifice principles. If Malaysia, which has often adhered to ethical concerns in regional and international politics, now deviates from such norms and tries to please one superpower or the other, it will tarnish its reputation and lose credibility.

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As a nation, we should never be perceived to be colluding with entities that are complicit in one of the most inhuman and cruellest genocides in history. When the moral dimensions of a conflict are so stark, we must make sure that we are not dismissed as a bunch of people who “hunt with the hounds and run with the hares.” Our commitment to principles and ethical values in a catastrophe like Gaza should be demonstrated through deeds; deeds that prove over and over again that there can be no compromise with evil.

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