New Israel Fund Succeeds: Another Company Divests From Israel

The NIF provided grants to Coalition of Women for Peace when it founded the Who Profits project, today considered one of the leading organizations in the boycott campaign against Israel.

Ronn Torossian

OpEds Ronn Torossian
Ronn Torossian

Last month (August, 2015), following intense pressure from the BDS movement, the French company Veolia completed the sale of its stake in CityPass, which operates the Jerusalem Light Rail (JLR). This investment was Veolia’s last holding in an Israeli company.

The BDS movement defined JLR as “an illegal rail system built to facilitate the growth and expansion of Israeli colonial settlements on occupied Palestinian territory.” (Note: It is in Jerusalem and helps those living in Arab neighborhoods get to the center of town and to work).

According to BDS movement representative Mahmoud Nawajaa, “Strategic and dedicated campaigning by the BDS movement has forced one of Europe’s biggest companies to abandon the Israeli market. Veolia’s withdrawal from Israel sets an example to all companies that are complicit in Israel’s human rights violations. This is a victory for the BDS movement and all our partners from other rights movements who have helped in pressuring the company.”

One of the participants in the pressure on Veolia to divest from its investments in Israel was the Who Profits from the Occupation? Project, founded by the Coalition of Women for Peace in 2006. At that time, Coalition of Women for Peace was funded by the New Israel Fund. In 2013, with the growth and establishment of Who Profits as a research center, the project was spun off by the coalition and became an independent organization, but the two organizations continue to work together to this day as sister organizations.

Who Profits,  one of the leading organizations in the campaign to boycott Israel, has a website with a database of companies that invest in or are involved in projects situated over the Green Line or in Israeli security companies. The site encourages international companies and companies based outside Israel to divest from the companies in the database.

Veolia is listed in the Who Profits database, which also tracked the company’s withdrawal from Israel and stressed that Veolia would be removed from the database only after the organization determines who owns the company’s former stake in CityPass.

Who Profits’ pressure on Veolia included the dispatching of a letter in 2009 to the Norwegian government demanding that it divest from Veolia due to the latter’s involvement in the settlements and the JLR project. At that time, Who Profits was, as noted above, a project managed by Coalition of Women for Peace, with funding from the NIF.

At the time, the letter to the Norwegian government was also signed by other NIF-funded organizations: Machsom Watch, Mossawa and Social Television-Syncopa – organizations that the NIF continues to finance to this day.

Who Profits has had several other “successes,” such as: the announcement by the CEO of French telecom giant Orange, Stephane Richard, that he would like to terminate the company’s ties with Partner Communications, Orange’s affiliate in Israel ; the Norwegian government divested from Elbit Systems, due to the latter’s involvement in the construction of the separation fence; the largest pension fund in Holland, PGGM recently announced its decision to divest from all its investments in Israel’s five largest banks because they have branched over the Green Line and are involved in financing construction in the settlements;

The NIF provided grants to Coalition of Women for Peace when it founded the Who Profits project, today considered one of the leading organizations in the boycott campaign against Israel. Even though the NIF stopped funding Coalition of Women for Peace and the Who Profits project, as we can see from the campaign against Veolia and many other campaigns supporting BDS in recent years, the damage caused by the NIF’s funding continues to this day.

Organizations that participated in the divestment campaigns against Israel continue to receive grants from the NIF. With Rosh Hashana approaching it is time for donors to the New Israel Fund – including Alisa Doctoroff, the Jim Joseph Fund & the Jewish Communal Fund to say no funds to boycotting Israel.