UPDATED Monday 9am: Act candidate Sean Fitzpatrick says he no longer wants to be associated with the BDS movement and was "flat out lied to." He now believes the group's assurance to him that it supports Israel's right to exist is not the case.
"I am greatly distressed to have my name associated with a campaign that is diametrically opposite to my views on the topic," he says.
"I fully acknowledge I ought to have done due diligence on the organization and their intentions before signing their pledge card. That I did not is squarely my fault for which I can only sincerely apologize."
EARLIER: Saturday 10am: Peter Dunne signs boycott Israel petition
Four MPs and several other politicians have signed a pledge to “require” the NZ Super Fund to withdraw its investments in companies that are said to profit from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (see list of signatories end of article).
United Future leader Peter Dunne and Act candidate Sean Fitzpatrick are among those who have signed a pledge for the “Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” movement.
Green MPs Kevin Hague and Kennedy Graham have also signed the pledge that “require[s] the New Zealand Superannuation Fund to divest our taxpayer dollars from companies which profit from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank.”
The pledge lists several companies that allegedly profit from the conflict, including Boeing, United Technologies, Caterpillar and Israel Chemicals.
Mr Dunne’s chief of staff Rob Eaddy said the pledge was a “personal” decision by the United Future leader.
However, the Super Fund is legally separate from the Crown and, while still accountable to the government, it has operational independence regarding investments decisions.
The “Call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” (BDS) represents the three major components of the Palestinian people: the refugees in exile, Palestinians under occupation in the West Bank and Gaza and the Palestinian citizens of the Israeli State.
It was set up in July 2005 by 171 Palestinian non-governmental organisations in support for the Palestinian cause.
The movement has no leadership or specific blueprint aside from the guidelines of the Call. BDS campaigners operate across the globe.
The boycott is structured around the theme of rights and an end to “colonisation”, according to academic Marcello Svirsky. It is a global movement working to create political and economic pressure so Israel will comply with its demands.
The BDS calls for the international community to demand from Israel an end to the “occupation” of Palestine, recognition of full rights to the Palestinian people and allowing the Palestinian people to return to their homes and stipulation under UN resolutions.
The NZ Super Fund has defended its investments, stating that the companies are acting legally in that they are not manufacturing banned weapons or breaching arms sanctions.
NZ Superannuation Fund chief executive Adrian Orr says there is no evidence for Israel Chemicals’ product – or any white phosphorus – being used against civilians in the recent Gaza conflict.
“Our analysis suggests Israel Chemicals operates within national and international laws, and conventions New Zealand has signed.”
A Super Fund spokeswoman explains that two thirds of its investments are managed “passively,” tracking global equity indices.
She says this is common among institutional investors seeking cost-effective, diversified exposure to share markets around the world. The “passive” investments are chosen on market capitalisation rather through active stock picking.
“It is important that people understand our legal mandate is to invest without prejudice to New Zealand’s reputation in the world.”
But she says the fund monitors the portfolio on an ongoing basis and if evidence emerges that companies are acting illegally then it will reassess its investments.
She says the Fund has faced situations similar to this in the past, pointing to a petition organised by Lois Griffiths and signed by 382 others, including MPs.
Norman Finkelstein, a widely-quoted pro-Palestinian activist, called the BDS a “cult”, says the movement doesn’t represent the entire Palestinian people and hides a secret wish to destroy Israel.
BDS supporter and University of California, Berkeley Professor of Sociology Claude S. Fischer, responded to the allegations about the group’s anti-Semitism.
"It is certainly true that anti-Semitism fuels the BDS movement. But most of the fuel — and the greatest problem for Western defenders of Israel — is the occupation, its settlements and the ugliness it often brings.”
MPs and candidates who have signed the BDS pledge:
United Future leader and MP Peter Dunne,
ACT candidate Sean Fitzpatrick,
Greens MP Kennedy Graham,
Greens MP Kevin Hague,
Mana leader and MP Hone Harawira,
Internet leader Laila Harre,
Labour candidate Virginia Andersen,
Greens co-leader Metiria Turei,
Greens candidate Mojo Mathers,
Greens candidate Tane Woodley,
Greens candidate Maddy Drew,
Greens candidate James Shaw,
Sue Hamil – Independent,
Democrats for Social Credit candidate Alida Steemson,
Mana candidate Ariana Paretutanganui-Tamati,
Mana candidate John Minto,
Mana candidate Roger Fowler.
What do you think? Should the NZ Super Fund withdraw investments in companies that profit from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Click here to vote in our subscriber-only business pulse poll.
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