Forum: Why does Connecticut continue to invest in Israel?
(New Haven Register 7/22/15)

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Forum: Why does Connecticut continue to invest in Israel?

Send this article to CT Treasurer Nappier and other elected leaders. See below.

By Stanley Heller and Bob Gelbach

The decision on June 30 of the million-member United Church of Christ to join in measures of BDS to pressure the Israeli government is of great, perhaps historic importance. BDS is short for boycotts, divestments and sanctions, measures that Palestinian civil society organizations have been asking for since July 2005. The UCC is the Congregationalists, whose roots go back to the Pilgrims and Puritans and the founders of Yale and Harvard.

Support for BDS is growing especially after last year's warfare in Gaza when Israeli forces killed over 500 children and 1500 other Palestinians and laid waste to wide areas. In the middle of the fighting the U.N. said 370,000 Palestinian children had been traumatized so severely that they needed "psycho-social" first aid. Despite grandiose promises of help Gaza is still in ruins. The U.N. refugee agency UNWRA reports that of the 9,000 private houses totally destroyed in Gaza, not one had been rebuilt as of April.

The devastation of Gaza changed shook the national organization Jewish Voice for Peace. At its Baltimore meeting this year JVP announced full support for the Palestinian BDS call to the cheers of 600 members in the meeting hall. JVP sent activists to the United Church of Christ General Synod encouraging them to join in BDS actions.

Israeli government supporters were able to get Congress to add a provision into the Trans Pacific trade bill that said it shall be a trade objective of the U.S. to discourage BDS. However, the same week the Obama administration said it would not oppose boycotts over activities in the Israeli occupied West Bank. The Israeli paper Ha'aretz wrote, "The boycott of settlements, in effect, has now been officially stamped "kosher" by the State Department."

None of this has had any impact on State of Connecticut investment practices. The state of Connecticut has more than $32 million invested in State of Israel Bonds and in Israeli companies. That means state employee and teacher pension money in part thrives on collaboration Israeli occupation, segregation and settlement practices. The money Connecticut lends Israel via Israel Bonds can be used for any development purpose including the building of the notorious "separation" wall that is longer and higher than the old Berlin wall and settlements that displace Palestinian towns and farmers.

The 18 million invested in Israeli stocks includes Israeli banks (which build settlements), NICE-systems (surveillance), and Africa-Israel (settlement builders).

Activists have written on the subject to Treasurer Denise Nappier over the years only to be rebuffed. Last October Deputy Treasurer Christine Shaw defended the investments in Israel saying "the underlying legal and policy basis for our approach remains sound".

Connecticut's Treasurers have used moral principles in investment decisions in the past. In 1987 Connecticut divested from companies doing business with the (then) apartheid South Africa. In 2006 Nappier, herself, spearheaded a Connecticut law, that prohibited state funds being investment in Sudan because of massive killings by the government of Sudan in its Darfur region.

A growing coalition of Connecticut citizens and organizations are now asking why Connecticut continues to invest in Israel, despite its record of oppression. Are Palestinians lesser beings? This $32 million of Connecticut employee pension money should be invested to develop Connecticut, not to aid oppression by the government of Israel.

Stanley Heller is executive director of the Middle East Crisis Committee, Bob Gelbach is co-chairman of Jewish Voice for Peace New Haven.

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Stanley Heller talks with with Scott Harris on BDS on the second part of this
July 13, 2015 "Counterpoint" WPKN broadcast radio program

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