FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 5, 2015 — Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign (MN BBC) strongly condemns the decision on Wednesday, March 4 by the State Board of Investment, as initiated by a motion from Governor Dayton, not to divest from Israel bonds, which are maturing on June 30, 2015. The motion came after a presentation by former South Dakota Senator and co-founder of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee James Abourezk urging the State Board of Investment not to continue to use state pension funds to invest in Israel because of its human rights abuses and oppressive occupation of Palestinians, and the Executive Director of the JCRC who claimed that Israel bonds are an important investment for Minnesota and that their rates are competitive.
After hearing the testimony, Governor Dayton put forth a motion calling on the SBI to “decline to divest” from Israel bonds so long as the bonds continue to return at competitive rates and not pose financial risks for the state, as per their fiduciary responsibility. The Governor remarked that he was behind the effort of the initial purchasing of the bonds and believes they are an important investment to maintain. Attorney General Lori Swanson questioned SBI Director Mansco Perry as to whether these bonds were financially lucrative, pose risks, and have rates similar to other bonds, to which he answered yes. The Board voted 3-1, with State Auditor Rebecca Otto voting no on the basis that she did not believe that the Board should weigh in on an individual bond decision or bring political considerations to an individual divestment decision. Otto’s statement affirms the assertion of MN Break the Bonds that the nature of Dayton’s motion and Israel bonds in general are indeed political. Break the Bonds estimates that since the bonds are general Treasury bonds, at least 20% of Minnesota’s investments are used for settlement activity in the occupied West Bank or towards other infrastructure maintaining the occupation. The occupation is illegal under international law and as such Minnesota is making a political statement by continuing to be invested in a military occupation in violation of international law.
Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign challenges the claim that the state’s Israel bonds were purchased for fiduciary rather than political reasons. While the bonds may provide a small and reliable return, this is not the basis on which they are sold. The bonds were purchased as “solidarity bonds” which are sold privately by the Israel Development Corporation as a way to show support for the state of Israel, not for financial competitiveness. “Israel bonds are not prudent investments because they are not competitive; they are not liquid and even the Israel Development Corporation acknowledges that the return is not competitive,” says Karen Schraufnagel, economist and member of MN Coalition for Palestinian Rights.
MN Break the Bonds mobilized supporters in the last several months to call on the SBI to not reinvest in the $10 million bonds, which mature at the end of June. Through this effort they collected over 1,200 signatures from residents of MN calling on the state not to reinvest.
MN Break the Bonds has been calling on the SBI to divest from Israel bonds since 2008 in a broad grassroots campaign with several thousand supporters from around the state, including chapters in the Twin Cities, Duluth, Rochester, Morris, and Willmar. The Break the Bonds campaign follows the Palestinian civil society call in 2005 for boycott, divestment, and sanctions against the state of Israel until Israel complies with international law and enables justice for human rights violations against Palestinians. MN Break the Bonds calls on all supporters of human rights to continue demanding that the State Board of Investments stop investing in Israel bonds.
MN Break the Bonds is a grassroots campaign supported by Friends of Sabeel North America-MN, US Palestinian Community Network-MN, Jewish Voice for Peace Twin Cities, Women Against Military Madness, Anti-War Committee, Middle East Peace Now, and several other community organizations.