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Are the Swedish Pension Fund’s ethics governed by anti-Israel policy?

A while ago the Swedish Pension Fund’s Ethical Council announced that it would divest itself of all shares in the Israeli company, Elbit Systems, since the company has supplied monitoring systems for the protective barrier that protects Israeli civilians from terror attacks emanating from the West Bank. Israel is currently constructing this barrier and some of it is routed on land that in some quarters is referred to as ‘occupied territory’.

Sweden’s English-language online paper, The Local, reported on the AP-Fonden Ethical Council’s announcement. And here is what the Swedish Fjärde AP-Fonden itself had to say on its website: The Ethical Council has

in the first quarter of 2010 recommended the AP funds to exclude the company Elbit Systems Ltd from their portfolios due to the fact that dialogue between the Council and the company has not produced the intended results. All the AP funds have decided to follow this recommendation. The Ethical Council recommended that Elbit Systems Ltd should be excluded from each portfolio because it deems that the company can be linked to violations of fundamental conventions and norms through its active development, delivery and maintenance of a custom-made monitoring system for certain parts of the separation barrier being built on the West Bank. The Council has noted that both the European Union and the Swedish government consider the part of the separation barrier being built on West Bank to be illegal under international law. This position is also supported by the advisory opinion from 2004 by the International Court of Justice regarding the separation barrier.

Sweden’s Fjärde AP-fonden is thus one of the pension funds that have decided to follow the recommendation. Just like all the other pension funds, this pension fund is a state institute operating under the aegis of the Swedish Ministry of Finance.

So our pension savings are not to be invested in Elbit Systems because the company has developed, supplied and maintains a product used for the protective barrier. That is thus the position of the Swedish state authorities.

Now it turns out that this same pension fund, Fjärde AP-fonden, had no less than twenty million nine hundred and ninetyfour thousand two hundred and ninetyfive (20,884,295) shares in Volvo, valued at more than one billion Swedish kronor, as per January 1, 2010, as can be seen here (in Swedish, pdf).

In fact, as far back as 2007 there was plenty of information about the fact that machines manufactured by Volvo were used for the construction of the protective barrier. This can be read here and here, and it is also possible via these links to see Volvo construction machines in action.

There can thus be little doubt that Volvo machines were and still are used in the construction of the protective barrier. So why do the Swedish pension funds exclude only the Israeli company, Elbit Systems, and not the Swedish company, Volvo? Exactly what dialogue has the Ethical Council had with Volvo since 2007? What concrete actions did that dialogue lead to?

If there is any reasonable consistency in the Ethical Council’s deliberations, it should now immediately recommend that the Swedish pension funds divest all their shares in Volvo, exactly as with the Israeli company. As long as it declines to do so, the Ethical Council’s ethics are seen clearly for what they actually are – a means of discriminating against the Israeli company, rather than having anything to do with ethics. There are many possible names for this, such as anti-Zionism, anti-Semitism or racism. But none of these are matters with which an Ethical Council – or any Swedish state authority – should under any circumstances be associated with or for which they should be suspected.

Having said that, of course, when one discovers that one of the board members of the Fjärde AP-fonden Swedish pension fund is the Mayor of Malmö, everyone’s favourite Ilmar Reepalu, the man who not long ago equated Zionism with anti-Semitism, well, it’s perfectly easy to understand just how the Swedish pension fund and the Ethical Council arrived at their decision. For more background on Malmö Mayor Ilmar Reepalu, read here.

The pieces fall into place, the fog lifts, the state authorities’ views in the form of the pension fund decision become increasingly clear. The code-word is anti-Zionism. In their defence, perhaps they understand as little of what they are saying and doing as Reepalu did when he made his infamous remark – something that he did admittedly later withdraw, to his modest credit.

However, an explanation is not an excuse. There is no excuse for anti-Zionism. There is no reason whatsoever to ban Elbit Systems while not banning Volvo. Either divest from both, or from neither. The reasonable conclusion is that both should continue to be worthy of investment since the protective barrier has done more good than harm. It has saved the lives of countless innocent Israeli civilians. It is not routed on occupied territory but rather on disputed territory. Does Israel not have the right to defend itself on the West Bank? Must Israel wait until the enemy attacks in the very heart of the Jewish nation? A ridiculous notion.

Israel’s protective barrier is justified on the basis of every reasonable viewpoint. So it is equally justified that both Elbit Systems and Volvo contribute to its completion and operation.

If there remains a single ounce of ethic in the Ethical Council, it is therefore an absolute demand that both the Council and the pension funds themselves immediately revoke the banning of Elbit Systems. We are, after all, talking about the actions of Swedish state authorities here.

And if the Swedish pension funds cannot recant and revise their decision, it is time for the government itself to step in.

Many thanks to Ilya Meyer for this excellent translation from Swedish to English. Visit Ilya Meyer’s blog in english.

2 comments to Are the Swedish Pension Fund’s ethics governed by anti-Israel policy?

  • Fint arbete som bekräftar bloggosfärens överlägsenhet gentimot PK-pressen som ger sej fan på att hålla inne med allt som kan skingra fördunklingen i vad vanliga vi ges att sörpla inför valet i sept !! Tack – Pe.

  • Mats

    Man tar sej för pannan…är det så illa?

    Reepalu, av alla, i styret för en fond som på ”etisk” grund ”di-vests” i ett Israeislkt företag vilket man ogillar, medan man samtidigt satsar STORT i ett annat (svenskt) företag som man i ljuset av fört resonemnag också ”borde” ogilla…

    Bra att man får veta åtminstone en del av hur det går till bakom kulisserna (kulisserna = större delen av massmedia i Sverige)

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