Palestinian village calls for Swedish divestment from occupation

Open letter, Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements – Bilin Village, 14 September 2009

The following open letter was issued by the Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements – Bilin Village (occupied West Bank) on 10 September 2009:

Dear Friends in Sweden,

We have learned with dismay that Sweden, a great supporter of human rights worldwide, has invested its pension fund AP1 in at least ten companies that support Israel’s human rights abuses and violations of international law. One of those companies, Israel Discount Bank, is directly involved in settlements on Bilin’s stolen land, and all the companies are involved in destroying hopes for justice and peace in Palestine. We were gratified to learn, however, that in the last months AP1 divested its holdings in Lev Leviev’s company Africa-Israel that has built settlements on the land of Bilin and of other villages. We call on the people of Sweden to divest their pension funds from the remaining ten companies that are directly implicated in Israeli human rights abuses.

AP1’s investment in Israel Discount Bank hurts us personally and directly. Israel Discount Bank’s trading room and other computer services are run by an Israeli company called Matrix IT. Matrix IT’s trading room is located on our villages land stolen by the illegal settlement of Modiin Illit. Our village of Bilin has carried out a nearly five-year campaign of creative, nonviolent protests against the construction of Israel’s wall and settlements on our village’s land. In June, one of our residents, 31-year-old Bassem Abu Rahma, was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers during a nonviolent protest here. We have also endured countless beatings, as well as bullets, tear gas, and serious injuries. More recently Bilin has been targeted by the Israeli army with a wave of arrests of protesters and protest organizers.

We are connected to this land. Our mothers took us to harvest olives before we could speak. We remember playing under the olive trees which have since been uprooted by the Israeli settlers who have moved here. There is now a huge and growing Israeli settlement bloc called Modiin Illit where we played as children. It is hard for us to accept the idea that our children cannot play on the land where we played in our childhood.

Israel Discount Bank has also financed the construction of building projects in the settlements of Har Homa, Beitar Illit and Maale Adumim. Additionally, Israel Discount Bank is the second major shareholder of Mul-T-Lock, whose factory is located in industrial zone of Barkan, another illegal Israeli settlement in the West Bank. We are sure that the people of Sweden do not want their money to support the seizure of Palestinian farmland for settlements and violence against our communities.

Sweden’s pension funds are also invested in at least nine other companies that are directly involved in Israel’s settlements and Israel’s wall to annex the settlements. Both the wall, where it is built inside the West Bank, and Israeli settlements were ruled a violation of international law by the International Court of Justice in 2004, and both contribute to severe hardships in tens of Palestinian communities, as they do in Bilin. Elbit Systems, which Norway recently divested from, provides electronic detection devices for Israel’s wall as well as unmanned aerial vehicles used by the Israeli military. The Israeli telecommunications companies Cellcom, Bezeq (including Bezeq’s subsidiary Pelephone) and Partner Communication have hundreds of cellphone towers on Palestinian land in the West Bank and provide cellphone service to Israeli settlers and soldiers. The Israeli banks, Bank Leumi, Bank Hapoalim and Mizrahi Tefahot Bank, all have branches in Israeli settlements and serve Israeli settlers. The Delek Group has fueling stations and convenience stores in West Bank settlements. Finally, Motorola USA provides surveillance systems to Israeli settlements, phone services to Israeli soldiers and settlers in the West Bank, and communication systems to the Israeli army.

Bilin has hosted thousands of Israeli and international visitors, many from Sweden, who have come to witness, learn and join our struggle. We would welcome Swedish representatives to visit us at any time in order to learn about the terrible impacts of these companies on Bilin and other Palestinian communities.

It is unconscionable that Swedish citizens own shares in companies that are helping to steal the land of Bilin and other Palestinian villages and are destroying hopes for peace. Please stand with us in our struggle for justice and divest from these companies.

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