AMSTERDAM Aug 28 Dutch pension fund ABP, the
world's third largest, on Thursday rejected calls from activists
including South Africa's Desmond Tutu to disinvest from three
Israeli banks they accuse of financially aiding the occupation
of Palestinian territories.
Activists from the campaigning group Avaaz had called on
ABP, the Dutch public employees' pension fund, to disinvest from
Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi and Mizrahi Tefahot Bank, in which it
has holdings totalling about 51 million euros.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu, one of the champions of South
Africa's struggle for democracy, had said in a letter to the
fund's board that the investments helped enable the expansion of
Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian territories.
ABP said its board had decided not to change its ethical
investment policy, which only bans investments in companies that
violate the U.N. Global Compact, an international ethical
investment yardstick, as well as companies that make cluster
bombs or landmines.
The pension fund, which had 309 billion euros in assets
invested worldwide at the end of 2013 and nearly three million
members in the Netherlands, said it had also received letters
from activists urging it to remain invested in the three banks.
"There are calls in favour of, as well as against, divesting
from the Israeli banks," the fund said in a statement.
"The fund takes all signals very seriously and understands
the unrest and the emotions that are caused by the conflict in
Gaza," it said.
ABP spokeswoman Jos van Dijk said on Wednesday that, while
the United Nations had criticised Israel's settlements in
occupied Palestinian territories, the world body had not accused
the Israeli banks of breaking international law.
In January, PGGM, another Dutch pension fund, decided to
pull its investments from five Israeli banks, including the
three targeted by Avaaz.
An open-ended ceasefire is now in place in Gaza after seven
weeks of fighting between Israel and Hamas, the Islamist rulers
of the coastal strip, in which Palestinian health officials say
2,139 people, most of them civilians and including nearly 500
children, have been killed.
Israel, whose own death toll stands at 64 soldiers and six
civilians, launched its offensive on July 8 with the declared
aim of ending rocket salvoes onto its territory.
(Reporting By Thomas Escritt; Editing by Gareth Jones)