A Minnesota human rights group plans to filed a complaint Tuesday to force the state to stop investing pension money in Israeli construction bonds.
MN Break the Bonds Campaign alleges that state investment in Israel bonds is not legal. The complaint claims the State Board of Investment is financing construction of Israeli settlements, which the group claims involve the wrongful moving of Israelis into the occupied Palestinian territories.
“By investing in this illegal activity, we are complicit in international law violations,” said Sylvia Schwarz, a member of the group.
The group alleges the state’s Israeli bond investment totals about $18 million, a tiny fraction of the state’s multibillion-dollar investment portfolio.
State Board of Investment executive director Howard Bicker said he was not aware of the complaint or the investments in question.
With an investment portfolio as large as the state’s, “everybody’s got warts someplace,” Bicker said.
In recent years, legislators have passed bills to discourage investing in Iran and Sudan.
State investors will honor any changes legislators make regarding Israeli investments, Bicker said. “The reality is that, if there was legislation passed, obviously we’d follow the legislation.”
MN Break the Bonds alleges Minnesota statutes restrict foreign investments. The group says investment in foreign bonds, except Canadian bonds, is prohibited.
The state pension investment board has exposed Minnesota taxpayers to liability of any victims of Israel’s human rights abuses, the group said.
A Jewish community relations group urged the state to leave the investment alone.
“Divesting from the state of Israel, the only true democracy in the Middle East, one of our nation's strongest allies, and an important trading partner for the state of Minnesota, is wrong," said Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas. “Minnesota’s investment in Israel reflects Israel’s strength in high technology, medical research and agricultural innovation."
Hunegs added: "The lawsuit does not bring any closer the realization to the goal of a two state solution – a safe and secure Israel side by side a free and democratic Palestinian state.”