Dutch pension firm stops boycott of Israel banks
A pension firm in the Netherlands has removed five Israeli banks from a blacklist it previously created in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
The firm PFZW – (Stichting Pensioenfonds Zorg en Welzijn, also known as PGGM) – is the second-largest pension fund in the Netherlands and regularly invests its assets overseas. PFZW had previously invested in a number of Israel’s major banks but in 2014 divested from these organisations in support of the BDS movement, citing “ethical concerns” over the banks’ presence in the occupied West Bank.
However yesterday Dutch-Jewish newspaper Nieuw Israelietisch Weekblad (NIW) revealed that the Israeli banks, including Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, Bank Mizrahi-Tefahot, First International Bank of Israel and Israel Discount Bank – have been taken off the blacklist, suggesting they are once again eligible for PFZW investment.
Though NIW did not offer an explanation as to why the banks were removed from the blacklist, the newspaper mentions that PFZW’s initial decision to blacklist the banks was influenced heavily by Cornelis (Cees) Flinterman, a long-time BDS activist who was appointed to the pension fund’s Advisory Board for Responsible Investment in 2007. Flinterman is no longer listed as a member of the board on PFZW’s webpage, suggesting that his absence may be significant in PFZW’s decision to backtrack on its original decision.