PFZW to review Israeli divestment after allegations of pro-Palestinian bias [updated]

first_imgPFZW, the €137bn pension fund for the Dutch healthcare industry, will conduct a “very extensive” review of its recent divestment from five Israeli banks, according to its director, Peter Borgdorff.The pension fund has faced widespread criticism for the controversial decision, including allegations of pro-Palestinian bias. In early January, PGGM – the manager responsible for PFZW’s assets – announced that it planned to divest from the banks over their involvement in the financing of Israeli settlements in the “occupied Palestinian territories”.PGGM spokesman Maurice Wilbrink confirmed that the manager initiated its engagement with the banks, a process that led to their divestment, specifically at PFZW’s behest. The divestment has proved a highly contentious one, sparking demonstrations outsides PGGM’s offices, while the Israeli government summoned the Dutch ambassador to protest the move. In the fallout following the decision to divest from the banks, it came to light that Gert van Dijk, chairman of the PGGM council, was also a member of pro-Palestinian organisation ICCO.Further, Cees Flinterman, who is a member of PFZW’s ethical board, is also a board member of The Rights Forum, as well as a member of the Support Committee of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, organisations that have been accused of having an anti-Israel agenda.Since then, Borgdorff has confirmed in his blog that pro-Palestinian organisations Cordaid, ICCO, IKV PaxChristi, Oxfam Novib, Watershed Working Group and the Dutch Palestine Komite, among others, had been actively lobbying the pension fund for “several years”, and that it incidentally provided pension funds to “some of them”. IPE understands that PFZW was lobbied by pro-Palestinian NGOs only.Meanwhile, ABP, Europe’s largest pension fund, announced in early February that it would not be following PGGM’s example, and that it disagreed with the manager’s assessment that the banks had acted in breach of “international law”.In a statement, it concluded that the Israeli banks in which it invests had done nothing to violate the UN Global Compact, or give cause to initiate a formal engagement process.In an interview with IP Nederland, Borgdorff conceded that PFZW had underestimated the extent to which its divestment would be perceived as a boycott, and confirmed the scheme would now launch a “very extensive” review of its decision-making process.“This whole process warrants a deep and extensive review, and one of the issues that will be reviewed is how should we view all this in relation to our peers, including ABP,” he said.“Does this mean we should change our policy to better suit the policy of others? No, we have our own policy, and we need to take our own responsibility.“But perhaps it does mean we should devote more time beforehand to get to know the policy of others because, based on what I read in the newspapers and websites, I cannot explain the difference in policy between PFZW and ABP, and yet those policies lead to entirely different outcomes.”When pressed by IP Nederland on Flinterman’s advisory role, Borgdorff explained that PFZW had wanted “somebody significant, somebody who is significant internationally as well”, and pointed out that Flinterman was a rapporteur on the Middle East conflict for the United Nations.When asked whether the pension fund might have sought a more objective adviser for the role, he said: “I’m sure we could have found someone else, but then we also would have asked for a balanced opinion.”Borgdorff said PFZW had reviewed its entire decision-making process, including the role of the ethical committee, the investment committee and the board.“We have literally pored over the minutes,” he said. He added: “We recently had protestors on our doorstep, and, to get in the office, you had to pass through 250 demonstrators, and that does have an impact. Our own PGGM staff started to question what it is we’re doing. And I think that is a good thing. Let’s have that discussion.”PFZW’s director also conceded that he personally had been unprepared for the “commotion” the decision had caused.“I have spoken with a lot of representatives from Jewish organisations in the Netherlands, and what has deeply touched and unsettled me is that these people and their constituents are truly fearful, truly concerned and saddened,” he said.“They are afraid there will be an anti-Israel mood in The Netherlands reminiscent of the 1930s, and they are no longer sure they are still welcome here, as human beings.“And then you think – we made an investment decision. We were aware of the fact this would have an impact. But did we foresee this would so deeply impact the very hearts and lives of people? Well, that was a good deal more intense than we were prepared for.”Joel Voordewind, an MP for the CU party, said PFZW had “given into” the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.“By acting like this, the scheme goes further than the policies of both the Dutch government and the EU, which advocate discouragement of investment in Israel’s occupied territories, rather than an outright boycott,” he said.He said the pension fund had effectively taken a political stance on behalf of its participants.Esther Voet, director of pro-Israel organisation The Centre for Information and Documentation on Israel, decried Flinterman’s involvement in the decision in particular.“PFZW is applying double standards,” she added, “as it is still invested in Chinese banks that are active in Tibet.”Meanwhile, a Dutch Jewish action group called Tradition is Our Future has called for a “counter boycott” of PGGM, and asked Jewish organisations in the US to put pressure on Emory University in Atlanta to expel Else Bos, PGGM’s chief executive, from an advisory committee.The conclusions of PFZW’s review are expected some time in mid-March.Flinterman has declined to comment, citing confidentiality.last_img read more

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USACE Allocates $274.3 Million to Complete Port of Mobile Project

first_imgThe U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has allocated $274,300,000 for the Port of Mobile in its Fiscal Year 2020 (FY2020) Work Plan, officially providing the resources to dredge Alabama’s premier port, according to U.S. Senator Richard Shelby.The funding – which accounts for the full federal share of the project cost – will initiate and complete construction of the deepening and widening of the navigation channel.Following the required preliminary steps, construction is expected to begin toward the end of the year.“Today marks a historic moment and victory for Mobile and the entire state of Alabama,” said Senator Shelby. “The completion of deepening and widening of the Port of Mobile is expected to stem immeasurable economic growth and will position Alabama and the Gulf Coast region for success for generations to come.”The construction will include the expansion of the Port of Mobile from its current dimensions – 45 feet deep and 400 feet wide – by deepening the existing Bar, Bay, and River Channels by five feet to a project depth of 50 feet.This will include additional depths for wave allowances, advanced maintenance, and allowable overdepth for dredging.  Following construction, the total depths of the Bar, Bay, and River Channels will be 56, 54, and 54 feet respectively.  The project also includes widening the Bay Channel by 100 feet for three nautical miles.last_img read more

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Lakers show good and bad in 112-111 loss to Minnesota

first_imgIt did not help the Lakers coughed up double-digit efforts from Minnesota guard Ricky Rubio (28 points, 14 assists), Kevin Martin (23 points), Karl-Anthony Towns (14 points) and Shabazz Muhammad (10 points). Or that Bryant’s team-leading 24 points came on 8-of-24 shooting and 3-of-13 from 3-point range in 29 minutes, which Scott said will likely mirror his playimg time after averaging 34.5 minutes last season in 35 games before suffering a season-ending right shoulder injury. Bryant also missed five of his shots in the fourth quarter.Bryant maintained he still “felt good” and chalked up the shooting inconsistency toward missing the last three exhibition games because of a bruise in his lower left leg. “The shots didn’t go in the fourth quarter, but my health felt good,” Bryant said. “That timing will come back.”But as Bryant gets into that rhythm, Scott advised that his star player should stop taking so many 3-pointers.“13 is probably a little too many,” Scott said. “I still want him closer to the basket. If I can get him to the elbows and mid post, let him work there.”The adjustments went beyond Bryant’s rhythm. In his first career NBA start, Lakers rookie point guard D’Angelo Russell posted only four points on 2-of-7 shooting and recorded more fouls (three) than assists (two) in 26 minutes. Scott only described Russell’s play as “okay” and said he wanted more on defense. “Just trying to do the right thing,” Russell said. “Trying to run the offense and stay aggressive and trying to make the right play. I get caught up in trying to do the right thing instead of just playing.”Still, the Lakers looked more promising than during last season’s nightmare. Then, the Lakers went 21-61, a worst in franchise history, amid a flush of injuries and an unproven roster. The Lakers also opened the season losing their first five games.• Photos: Los Angeles Lakers take on Minnesota Timberwolves in opening game of NBA seasonThe Lakers also enjoyed double-digit efforts from Julius Randle (15 points), Jordan Clarkson (14), Nick Young (14) and Roy Hibbert (12).“The thing I love about this group that I have is these guys are very coachable,” Scott said. “They want to go out and give you the best effort that they can.”Hence, why Scott granted the starting job to Russell. “I’ve been very impressed with our talk and how hard he’s worked the last three days,” Scott said beforehand, referring to telling Russell to focus more on defense and rebounding instead of just playmaking. “I think he’s ready. He has an inner confidence in himself in that he wants to be in this position. He wants to be in that spotlight.”Russell did not assume that spotlight with the lead role. Clarkson mostly handled point-guard duties both to lessen Russell’s workload and the pressure as the Lakers’ No. 2 draft pick. “You’re not really familiar with the spots,” Russell said. “But it’s something you have to know better. You have to know multiple positions. Experience will take over when it comes to me being better individually.”But that became difficult as teammates routinely fumbled Russell’s passes. Russell said he “tries to be” patient, but will how much he tolerate a long process?“I don’t know man,” Russell said. “It’s either we get it or I keep getting a turnover, I’m down with it if it takes some time and I see some improvement. But if guys can’t catch it because I make the pass at the wrong time, its both of our faults.”Yet, Russell hardly faulted Scott for sitting him for the entire fourth quarter.“Coach does a great job of doing what he does,” Russell said. “His job is to coach. So if I’m on the floor, I’m on the floor. If I’m not, live with it”.After all, Scott stressed his lineup will remain subject to change.“I don’t think I want him to feel ‘I’m a starter for the next 82 games,’” Scott said. “You have to work and get better.”Despite watching the lineup’s progression with a critical eye, Scott admitted, “I have to be patient, too.”Scott pondered about starting Marcelo Huertas before changing his mind amid concerns about his right hamstring and feeling impressed with how he meshes with the reserves. Scott also considered starting rookie Anthony Brown at small forward after starting in the last five exhibition games. Instead, Scott chose Russell, whose play mirrored the rest of the team’s work in progress. “When I let it go, I thought it was a bucket,” said Williams, who posted 21 points on 6-of-14 shooting and a 7-of-7 mark from the foul line in 27 minutes. “It’s a routine play for me, three or four feet away from the rim and a floater over a seven footer. I thought it was a good shot.”So did Bryant, despite the Lakers’ star player not having the chance to close a game out like he has done so many times.“He got a good look,” Bryant said. “That’s his shot.”So did Scott, aware that Williams also made a 3-pointer that cut Minnesota’s lead to 112-111 with 31.6 seconds left. “He got a great look,” Scott said. “That’s a shot Lou knocks down pretty regularly especially in practice. It was a perfect shot. He just threw it up a little bit too hard.” Both the excitement and anxiety of the Lakers’ 2015-16 season caused Byron Scott to toss and turn, leaving the team’s coach so restless that he woke up Wednesday at 4:30 a.m. He then took a hot yoga session around 6:30 a.m., an exercise that made Scott “feel better.”But it appears Scott may have trouble sleeping for another night after the Lakers lost to the Minnesota Timberwolves, 112-111, in their season opener on Wednesday at Staples Center.“We had a lot of brain farts,” Scott said. “I know we’re young and inexperienced at times. But we made a lot dumb mistakes that we shouldn’t have been making.” So much that the Lakers coughed up a 16-point lead that Scott and his players mostly blamed on declining intensity. But the Lakers may have also made a mistake when Scott called a timeout with 4.2 seconds left despite Julius Randle having an open look to drive at the top of the key. But Lakers guard Lou Williams took an inbounds pass from Kobe Bryant and took a floater that rimmed out as time expired. center_img Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorlast_img read more

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