Nordea puts Israeli holdings under the loop

Swedish bank Nordea has vowed to review its holding in two Israeli banks for possible ties to the building of Israeli settlements in the occupied territories.

Nordea puts Israeli holdings under the loop

Several European pension funds have pulled funding from and blacklisted companies that contributed to Israeli settlements in the occupied territories considered illegal by the international community.

However Stockholm-headquartered Nordea, which has investments in two banks, wants to meet to discuss the matter before taking a decision.

The continued building of Israeli settlements on occupied territory remains a complicating factor in Middle East peace negotiations. The settlements are considered illegal by the United Nations and other international bodies.

On Friday, Norway's oil fund blacklisted two companies with ties to the settlements. Last autumn, Danske Bank sold its stake in an Israeli bank and blacklisted it.

Nordea, which has holdings in Israeli banks Mizrahi and Hapolaim, plans to examine the banks for possible ties to settlements said Nordea's head of corporate social responsibility, Sasja Beslik, to the TT news agency.

Nordea has launched a dialogue with the banks as well as companies HP and Veolia regarding their activities in Israel, and plans to meet with them in the coming months.

"We haven't come to any decision about a ban. We're going to meet them in March in order to understand how they manage their risk in relation to dealing with human rights in their operations in Israel. After we've met with them, we'll analyze what comes up and then our committee will take a decision," she told TT.

Beslik emphasized that Nordea only owns about four million kronor ($610,000) worth of stock in the two banks.

Sweden's three other large banks, Swedbank, Handelsbanken, and SEB have no investments in Israeli banks, nor do any of Sweden's AP state pension funds, TT reported.

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Israel intercepts Swedish Gaza-bound activist boat

The Israeli navy intercepted a Swedish-flagged activist boat bent on breaching its more than decade-long blockade of Gaza, the second in less than a week, the military said on Saturday.

Israel intercepts Swedish Gaza-bound activist boat
Photo: TT

“The ship was monitored and was intercepted in accordance with international law,” the military said in a statement, before the vessel, named Freedom for Gaza and carrying 12 people, was taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod.

“The (military) clarified to the ship’s passengers that they are violating the legal naval blockade and that any humanitarian merchandise can be transferred to Gaza through the Port of Ashdod,” the statement said.

The people on board were taken for “further inquiry.”

The organisers of the flotilla said the boat, which was carrying medical supplies, was intercepted in international waters.

“The demands of Ship to Gaza are that the ship with its crew and cargo will be returned to the site of the boarding, and that they will be allowed to go in peace through international and Palestinian waters in accordance to international law,” they said in a statement.

“This is a demand that the eleven years-long illegal and destructive blockade on Gaza will be lifted at last.”

Freedom was the second boat of the “Freedom Flotilla” to be intercepted en route to “break the blockade” on Gaza, organisers said.

Four boats left from Scandinavia in mid-May and stopped in some 28 ports along the way, with two remaining behind after a recent stop in the Italian port of Palermo.

On Sunday, the Israeli navy intercepted a Norwegian-flagged activist boat that was part of the flotilla.

Israel has fought three wars with Palestinian militants in Gaza since 2008 and says the blockade is necessary to keep them from obtaining weapons or materials that could be used for military purposes.

UN officials have called for the blockade to be lifted, citing deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the Palestinian enclave run by Islamist movement Hamas where 80 percent of the two million population are dependent on aid.