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THE Court of Appeal decision to back the government’s right to circumscribe pensions schemes from bearing in mind ethical considerations over where to invest funds is galling but not unexpected.
It reflects advice given over four decades ago when some pension fund trustees sought to avoid investing in companies involved with apartheid South Africa and were told they were bound to maximise fund income in the interests of members.
This was dictated by the fact that British governments, both Tory and Labour, opposed solidarity activists’ efforts to isolate the apartheid state.
While Tory governments right up to and including that of Margaret Thatcher sympathised with apartheid, Labour was critical of the system, especially in opposition, but muted its criticism in office for fear of jeopardising Britain’s access to South Africa’s Simonstown naval base.
However, the boycott movement gained ground, especially after less constrained colleges and other institutions in the US threw their weight behind divestment.
Trustees are entitled to withdraw funds from companies if they believe that turbulence or unrest is likely to threaten the value of investments and it is certainly arguable that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s determination to risk regional armed conflict could well present such a scenario.
His visit to Theresa May, following earlier discussions with Chancellor Angela Merkel and President Emmanuel Macron, reveals a political gulf between these European states and the aggressive approach that Netanyahu shares with Donald Trump.
Netanyahu opposed the Iran nuclear deal, signed by the five UN security council members, together with Germany and Iran, all along and Trump has now pulled the US out of it, which will encourage Israel in its military adventurism.
The Israeli PM went so far on Monday as to accuse Iran of "trying to conquer" the Middle East with its military presence in Syria and demanding that Iranian forces evacuate that country.
It requires a special kind of chutzpah from the leader of a country that occupies Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian territory and bombs targets in these and other states routinely to demand that Iran, which assists the lawful and internationally recognised government in Damascus, leave Syria.
Netanyahu’s fanciful claim about Tehran’s desire to conquer the entire region is outdone by his assertion that Israel’s trigger-happy snipers who have killed over a hundred unarmed Palestinians in their own land “are doing everything we can to both minimise casualties and at the same time protect Israeli lives.”
Berlin, Paris and London are united in backing the Iran nuclear accord and are “concerned” about the slaughter of Palestinians, but their devotion to Washington and Tel Aviv guarantees that the trade and investment guaranteed to Tehran will fail to materialise while arms sales and special trading partner status for Israel will continue.
This cowardly European refusal to stand up to a global bully and its regional surrogate makes the case yet more strongly for peaceful and democratic solidarity action, expressed through the boycott, divestment, sanctions (BDS) movement.
Argentina’s cancellation of its national football team’s friendly match against Israel in west Jerusalem is an important development, spotlighting the role that sport can play, as it also did against apartheid South Africa.
The Court of Appeal ruling on the government’s right to issue “guidance” to pensions schemes noted the requirement that official foreign or defence policy should govern the appropriateness of sanctions.
While considering a possible appeal against the ruling, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign should also seek to build support within Labour for BDS so that a change of government might also herald a change of policy.
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