New Zealand embraces BDS, divests government fund from Israeli banks

“It is viewed by some groups as potentially aligning New Zealand with an anti-Semitic movement,” said Nicola Willis, member of New Zealand’s Parliament.

By Josh Plank, World Israel News

The New Zealand Superannuation Fund (NZ Super Fund) announced Tuesday that based on information provided by the UN and BDS organizations, it has divested its holdings from five Israeli banks which have helped finance the construction of Israeli homes in Judea and Samaria.

The NZ Super Fund, a government investment portfolio designed to help pay for the increased cost of universal pension payments in the future, said it has divested around NZ$6.5 million from First International Bank of Israel, Israel Discount Bank, Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, and Bank Mizrahi-Tefahot.

The move was celebrated by groups like the Palestine Solidarity Network Aotearoa (PSNA), a BDS group which uses the indigenous Maori name for New Zealand.

“After a long process of PSNA and supporters approaching the NZ Super Fund, they have finally decided to Divest from the Israeli banks funding the building of Illegal Israeli Settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,” PSNA said on Facebook.

However, groups like the Israel Institute of New Zealand (IINZ) sharply criticized the NZ Super Fund for unfairly singling out the Jewish State while seeming to ignore human rights violations such as China’s treatment of Uyghur Muslims.

“The double-standard is clear. And clearly out of step with traditional allies,” IINZ tweeted.

At a meeting of New Zealand’s Finance and Expenditure Committee on Wednesday, Member of Parliament Nicola Willis said that the fund’s decision was controversial and “viewed by some groups as potentially aligning New Zealand with an anti-Semitic movement.”

Willis questioned whether potentially biased UN resolutions were the “proper basis for this decision-making,” and she asked what steps were being taken “to ensure consistency in the way it treats issues relating to human rights abuses.”

NZ Super Fund CEO Matt Whineray said, “So how do we get consistency? We make sure that we have standards that we are comparing these to.”

“We use the UN Global Compact which outlines the expected standards of corporate behavior,” he said.

This strategy of relying heavily on inconsistent UN resolutions in order to maintain the consistency of the fund’s actions was criticized by New Zealand blog Shalom.Kiwi, which said the fund was “in effect defending discrimination with more discrimination.”