The fund will divest its holdings in the companies Shapir Engineering and Industry, a home builder, and Mivne Real Estate, that rent industrial premises in Palestinian territory occupied by Israel.

A Palestinian flag hangs on a tree during a protest against illegal Jewish settlements in An-Naqura village near Nablus, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, March 29, 2021.
A Palestinian flag hangs on a tree during a protest against illegal Jewish settlements in An-Naqura village near Nablus, in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, March 29, 2021. (Reuters)

Norway's sovereign wealth fund, the world's largest, has decided to dump two companies involved in the development of illegal settlements in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, citing concerns about potential rights violations.

The fund will divest its holdings in the companies "due to unacceptable risk that the companies contribute to systematic violations of individuals' rights in situations, or war or conflict," Norway's central bank said in a statement late on Wednesday.

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Israel's illegal settlement expansion

The companies are Shapir Engineering and Industry, a home builder, and Mivne Real Estate, which rents industrial premises in the Palestinian territory occupied by Israel, Norway's central bank said in a statement late Wednesday.

Over 465,000 Israeli settlers now live in settlements in the occupied West Bank, three times more than when the Oslo peace accords between Israel and the Palestinians were signed in the 1990s.

The fund, which has nearly $1.3 trillion in assets and is managed by the central bank, also added a Japanese women's clothing and accessories maker to its blacklist over worries of human rights abuses.

The fund's ethics committee recommended the fund exclude Honeys Holdings after investigations found "numerous labour rights violations" at two factories that the company owns in Myanmar.

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What does exclusion mean for companies?

In practice, the exclusions mean the fund has sold its stakes in the three companies and will not reinvest in them as long as the activities continue.

The fund, which holds equity stakes in some 8,800 companies worldwide, is governed by a set of ethical rules that prohibit it from investing in companies guilty of serious human rights violations, those that manufacture nuclear weapons, or produce coal or tobacco.

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Tearing down Gaza, again

In each Israeli aggression on Gaza, hospitals and clinics were damaged or destroyed, and medical personnel killed. And after each, authorities had to slowly rebuild, hampered by the blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt since Hamas took power in 2007.

Other turmoil also weighed on the system. More than two years of weekly Friday Palestinian protests at the border with Israel against the blockade produced a constant stream of casualties from Israeli fire – more than 35,000 injured, many with lifelong disabilities and around 100 still awaiting reconstructive surgery and amputations.

Now health facilities are struggling to handle both the casualties of war and the everyday needs of Gaza’s 2 million people.

“It’s layer-upon-layer of crisis. And there never is really enough time between each crisis to rebuild,” said Matthias Schmale, the UNRWA director in Gaza.

“The (health care) system has gradually been quite significantly weakened. I wouldn’t say it’s on its knees, but getting close.”

Gaza health officials say at least 300 Palestinians, including 65 children, have been killed in air strikes and more than 1,700 wounded.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies