Pro-Palestine groups protest state investments in Israel
The Minnesota State Board of Investment (SBI) has a small fraction of its nearly $129 billion in assets under management in Israeli banks, bonds or defense companies, but pro-Palestinian groups want them all divested. They testified and demonstrated at the board’s meeting Wednesday morning.
“Divestments from Israel’s weapon industries, banks and bonds is not the same as antisemitism,” retired teacher Lucia Smith testified.
Smith and fellow retiree Sarah Martin say they don’t want their pension funds invested in Israel because of the way they’re conducting the war with Hamas.
“I join the demand that you, the SBI, divest these investments involved in the denial of the rights of the people of Palestine,” Martin told the board.
The group chanted anti-Israel slogans immediately after the meeting adjourned without the board taking any action.
“Not another nickel, not another dime … no more money for Israel’s crimes,” went one chant, followed by a more inflammatory one: “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free,” they chanted outside the meeting room. Many pro-Israel groups consider that slogan antisemitic because it’s part of the Hamas charter which calls for the destruction of Israel.
Protest organizer Wyatt Miller disagrees.
“People try to make it seem like a controversial thing, but when we use that chant we are calling for equal human rights for Palestinians in their historic homeland,” he told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS.
Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., was censured in the U.S. House for using the phrase in relation to Israel.
“Pure economic warfare against Israel, the Jewish state,” is how Steve Hunegs, executive director of the Minnesota Jewish Community Relations Council describes the protests at today’s investment board meeting — an opinion echoed by state Sen. Ron Latz, DFL-St. Louis Park, at a news conference before the protests.
“Divestment would move the needle in the wrong direction,” Latz said. “Instead it would give comfort and encouragement to a movement fundamentally dedicated to the destruction of Israel.”
In a statement to 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, the SBI emphasized its fiduciary responsibility to Minnesota’s public employees:
“The State Board of Investment is responsible for supporting the retirement security of over 800,000 Minnesota Public employees and their families – from teachers, firefighters, cafeteria workers, police officers, and bus drivers. As long-term investors and fiduciaries, we are required to make complex investment decisions to ensure that we are supporting our beneficiaries and their families — both for today and in the future. We remain committed to listening to our stakeholders.”Minnesota State Board of Investment
The pro-Palestinian group plans to protest Thursday morning outside Sen. Amy Klobuchar’s office in Minneapolis.