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Occupation magazine - Activism
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Jewish settlements targeted in divestment campaign
by KARIN LAUB and AMY TEIBEL -
November 24, 2010
TEL AVIV, Israel -- There is a budding movement by foreign investors and activists to join a Palestinian campaign against companies doing business in the West Bank - aimed at hitting them in their pockets.
Pension funds in Norway and Sweden have divested themselves of holdings in some firms involved in building in settlements or helping to erect Israel`s contentious West Bank separation barrier.
European activists are cranking up pressure on companies by exposing the West Bank ties and picketing stores that sell settlement goods. And some major U.S. churches are questioning companies as a precursor to possible divestment.
The economic impact is still negligible. Jewish groups are pushing back and key institutions, including U.S. universities, have rejected calls to divest. But in business, where image is all-important, it`s tough to shrug off potentially negative publicity.
Israel accuses boycott advocates of trying to delegitimize the Jewish state. It also argues that plenty of companies with ties to states with horrendous human rights records are not similarly targeted.
The focus on corporate involvement comes against the backdrop of a wider Palestinian movement of divestment and boycott, inspired by the economic assault on apartheid-era South Africa.
The Palestinians hope such pressure will achieve what years of negotiations have not - end Israel`s occupation of the West Bank and east Jerusalem, lands they want for a state. Israel withdrew all forces and settlers from the Gaza Strip, the other territory claimed by the Palestinians, in 2005.
While the Palestinians seek a blanket boycott of Israel, many foreign supporters do not.
`This is not divestment from Israel. It`s divestment from companies supporting the occupation,` said William Aldrich, head of the divestment task force at the New England Conference of the United Methodist Church.
Divestment is meant to make a moral statement, said Aldrich, whose group recommends that Methodists sell stock in 29 foreign and Israeli companies, though that call has not been adopted by his church at the national level.
`The big success is that is has become an issue,` added Merav Amir of the Tel Aviv-based Coalition of Women for Peace, whose database of companies has become a resource for investors and activists.
Israeli opposition leader Tzipi Livni, a former foreign minister who supports a West Bank pullout, said Israel should be concerned.
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