Norway’s largest pension fund divests stake in Caterpillar over Israeli settler expansion

KLP cites company’s involvement in Israeli rights abuses against Palestinians in the West Bank for divestment decision

MEE staff

A Caterpillar Inc. 777 mining haul truck at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, US, on 5 January 2023 (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP)

Norway’s largest pension fund has divested its stake in Caterpillar Inc. over its involvement in rights abuses in the occupied Palestinian territories.

Oslo-based KLP sold its shares and bonds in the company, worth 728m krone ($69m), earlier this month.

Kiran Aziz, the firm’s head of responsible investment, said the Texas-based firm’s equipment was used “to demolish Palestinian homes and infrastructure to clear the way for Israeli settlements” and also pointed to the use of Caterpillar equipment by the Israeli army.

“Although Caterpillar has shown itself willing to engage in a dialogue with KLP, the company’s responses failed to credibly substantiate its ability to actually reduce the risk of violating the rights of individuals in situations of war or conflict, or of violating international law,” Aziz said, according to Bloomberg.

“The company cannot provide us with assurances that it is doing anything in this regard.”

Caterpillar is among the companies cited by the United Nations’ Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights as being at risk of “being complicit in serious violations of international human rights and international humanitarian laws” as a result of its supplies to Israel.

In March, the Norwegian government issued formal advice against any trade or business activities with illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.

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In a statement, the Norwegian foreign minister said the advice was being issued against the backdrop of escalating settlement expansion, as well as “increased settlement violence against the Palestinians”.

KLP cited the Norwegian government advice in its divestment decision.

Since 7 October, when an attack by Hamas-led fighters in southern Israel killed 1,140 people, settler attacks in the West Bank have become increasingly frequent.

Hundreds of Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank by Israeli troops and settlers since then, according to the UN and rights groups.

Israel has also stepped up construction of illegal settlements.

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