Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A wave of morally responsible investment victories

Advocates for morally responsible investment around the world achieved a wave of victories in the past week!

It started Monday, June 8 with Veolia's announcement that it would pull out of the East Jerusalem light rail project that would connect illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem with Israel. (For those of you who have visited Sabeel's office in Jerusalem, this is the light rail that is being built right through the middle of Shou'fat road in front of the office). Veolia has lost some $7 billion in contracts due to sustained efforts in Europe, including campaigns and law suits against Veolia contracts in France; Dutch and Swedish divestment efforts, which included the participation of the Sabeel partners such as the Church of Sweden and Diakonia; and by British solidarity groups.

(Light rail in front of Sabeel Jerusalem office; photo by Tina Whitehead)

Next came the announcement that the Belgian-French financial group Dexia will no longer finance Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories through its Israeli branch Dexia Israel. This decision follows a months-long Belgian campaign to expose the company's connections to the settlement 'enterprise.'

Then came news that Motorola, which provides the Israeli military and settlements with surveillence and communication equipment, is considering selling off its Israeli subsidiary. his decision comes after our April victory in which Motorola sold off its bomb fuse department, one of the primary demands of human rights advocates working on the Motorola campaign.

Most recently, shareholder resolutions and protests at the Caterpillar shareholder meeting called on the company to end its military sales to Israel. Caterpillar bulldozers are used to demolish Palestinian homes, uproot olive and fruit trees, build settlements and the apartheid Wall, and have even been used to kill Palestinian and international civilians. Faced with questions about Caterpillar's human rights record, CAT CEO Jim Owens repeatedly said that those shareholders who don't agree with CAT's practices shouldn't own CAT shares--exactly what morally responsible investment advocates have been saying all along!

In other MRI news, the Toronto Conference of the United Church of Canada passed a resolution calling for all churches affiliated with the United Church to support Palestinian human rights through divestment efforts.. The resolution will be discussed and voted on by the United Church General Council in August. And a Canadian court is set to rule on whether companies can be sued for constructing settlements in a suit brought against two Canadian companies by the Palestinian village of Bil'in, one of the sites of weekly protests against the Apartheid Wall. To watch Al Jazeera's report on this case, click here.


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