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America's Pension Funds Are Being Used To Finance Illegal Settlements in Israel — That's Both Wrong and Illegal

Hebron demonstration against settlements and the marking of "Land Day." (Photo by ISM Palestine)
Hebron demonstration against settlements and the marking of "Land Day." (Photo by ISM Palestine)

By JAMES ABOUREZK
The Minnesota State Board of Investment is honor bound when it invests monies from Minnesota’s public employee pension funds. Each of the Board members, which includes Governor Mark Dayton (Chair), State Auditor Rebecca Otto, Secretary of State Steve Simon and Attorney General Lori Swanson know, or should know, that the Board has violated its fiduciary responsibility to only invest public pension funds prudently by investing in Israel Bonds. Israel Bonds are government bonds issued by the State of Israel.

Earlier this month, I appeared before the Board members to urge them not to invest in Israel Bonds. Immediately after I ended my presentation, the Governor handed the other Board members a previously prepared written motion to continue investing the state’s pension funds in Israel Bonds. All of us in the packed hearing room understood that my testimony had been wasted. Facing members of the pro-Israel Lobby who had been seated in the front row, three of the four board members voted to invest. Only the State Auditor, Rebecca Otto, voted against the motion.

I’ve seen this pressure before. It usually consists of a subliminal threat by the pro-Israel Lobby to cut off any campaign money to those who defy what the Lobby wants. That is the same kind of threat that allowed Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu to travel to the United States to dictate to our Congress how American foreign policy should be conducted. I believe that the 36 standing ovations for Bibi and the 47 Republican Senatorial signatures on the letter to Iran were eager messages to the Israeli Lobby telling them how much Congress appreciated the campaign money given each election cycle to its obedient members. When I served in the US Senate I well remember the threats directed against me for not being obedient enough to the Lobby.

The Board of Investment’s vote to use Minnesota pensioners’ money to buy the low-yield bonds issued by Israel is, without question, highly imprudent and illegal, especially because the Board knows how the money will be used. American money plunged into Israel Bond sales is fungible, meaning that the money is lumped into Israel’s General Fund, and then used for anything Israel wants, without restriction. That also means that the money sent to Israel is used for settlements. Israel’s settlements are illegal under Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits an occupier from transferring any part of its civilian population into the territory it occupies.

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