15 May 2009
A Norwegian ethics committee is due to travel to Israel and the West Bank in two weeks to assess the investment of the world’s largest government pension fund, The Norwegian Government Pension Fund, in Africa Israel Investments.
In advance of that visit, a delegation of seven members of the Norwegian Socialist Left Party travelled to the West Bank and Gaza Strip this week to see for themselves the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, siege on Gaza and the destruction wrought following Israel’s war on the area last winter.
After under a week in the area Member of Parliament Ågot Valle, spokesperson on foreign affairs for the party, spoke out about Norwegian investment in the Africa Israel Investments company. “No doubt we as a party cannot support investment in a company that violates human rights, contributes to an occupation and war,” Valle said in a telephone interview.
The company, owned by Israel’s richest businessman, Lev Leviev, invests in settlements and owns construction companies involved in building both the separation wall and illegal settlements in the West Bank.
Valle’s party is encouraging the ethics committee to be thorough in its assessment, but added that if it finds investing in Africa Israel Investments ethical, “then the ethics guidelines must be re-written.”
The visit was, in part, to solidify the Socialist Left position over the ethics committee findings and over Norwegian investments in the Israeli company, but it was also a chance to “see for ourselves” the realities in the area.
Delegates who had never been to the area were “shocked” at the “strategically planned settlements,” checkpoints and 30-foot-high border wall snaking across the West Bank, as well as “some heavy destruction” in the Gaza Strip. The delegation, including three members of Parliament, was denied entry to the coastal area Tuesday without explanation. A second attempt was successful.
Following the tour, which will finish this week, MP Valle noted that the delegation could not help asking themselves, “After seeing the situation here; does Israel really want peace?”