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Norway blacklists Israeli firms linked to settlements

Norway blacklists Israeli firms linked to settlements

03 February 2014 in 2014

Boycott adds to pressure on firms over settlements

JERUSALEM // Norway’s sovereign wealth fund has blacklisted two Israeli companies involved in building settlements in Israeli-occupied East Jerusalem.

Israel’s government and business leaders are alarmed by a growing international boycott movement and the probable effect of European measures against exports from Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank,

Norway, although not an EU member, blocked its Dh3 trillion pension fund from investing in two Israeli companies because of their construction activities in East Jerusalem.

The foreign ministry this week blacklisted Africa Israel Investments and its subsidiary, Danya Cebus, on a recommendation from the fund’s ethics council.

The companies were excluded from the fund once before, in 2010. The fund’s ethics council said the settlements represent “serious violations of the rights of individuals in situations of war or conflict”.

Norway’s decision to blacklist the companies comes after Hollywood star Scarlett Johansson stepped down as Oxfam ambassador amid a storm over her campaign for SodaStream, a firm operating in a settlement in the occupied West Bank.

Amid a backlash against Israel’s settlement policy, the Israeli cabinet will next week hammer out a strategy to counter a growing international campaign to boycott trade linked to settlements, the Haaretz newspaper reported yesterday.

The European Union last year moved to block all grants and funding to any Israeli entity operating beyond the 1967 line, rattling the Israeli government.

Lars Faaborg-Andersen, the EU’s ambassador to Israel, said last week that in addition to coordinated action by the body, Israel’s settlement expansion was fuelling private moves to boycott products and services linked to the settlements, which are illegal under international law.

More than 500,000 Israeli settlers live in territories that Israel captured from Palestinians in the 1967 war and which the Palestinians hope will be part of their future state.

Settlements have been one of the core issues in talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Top officials from the United Nations, United States, Russia and European Union will meet in Munich today to discuss how they can help the US secretary of state John Kerry’s drive for a deal, the EU said.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said she would chair the meeting with Mr Kerry, United Nations secretary general Ban Ki-moon, Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and former UK prime minister Tony Blair.

* Reuters and Agence France-Presse


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