By Jewish Voice for Peace

February 22, 2024  The Wire

 

One of the largest pension funds in the world has divested entirely from Israel Bonds.

In November, the Norwegian Pension Fund announced that it had withdrawn all of its nearly half a billion dollars worth of investments in Israel Bonds, citing “uncertainty in the market.” It pulled what remained of its investments at the start of the Israeli government’s genocidal war in Gaza.

Israel’s economy is in trouble. That tells us we need to double down on demands to divest from Israel Bonds.

Israel Bonds are money lent directly to Israel’s treasury. Since their establishment in 1951, the sale of Israel Bonds has funneled billions of dollars into almost every sector of the Israeli economy.

Like any material support for the Israeli government, Israel Bonds cannot be disentangled from nearly a century of ethnic cleansing and slaughter. The sale of Israel Bonds has and continues to fund the maintenance of a brutal system of apartheid over millions of Palestinians throughout historic Palestine, and the genocide being carried out against 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza.

That’s why the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement is targeting divestment from Israel Bonds as part of a larger strategy to build economic and political pressure as a meaningful contribution to the Palestinian struggle to dismantle Israel’s apartheid regime.

In doing so, the BDS movement has created a new vocabulary of effective international solidarity, empowering people around the world to direct more focused pressure to end the complicity of governments, corporations, institutions, and individuals in financing Israeli apartheid.Þ

Israel’s economy is in trouble.

In the last quarter of 2023, Israel’s GDP plummeted nearly 20 percent. Consumer spending was down by a third, imports and exports shrunk, and government spending skyrocketed 88 percent. Earlier this month, rating agency Moody’s downgraded Israel’s credit rating for the first time in the country’s history, saying its economic outlook was “negative.”

Israel’s far-right government is again managing an economic crisis, largely of its own making, by changing the subject.

Shortly after Moody’s issued its new rating, Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich lambasted the financial ratings agency for their so-called “lack of confidence in the righteousness of [Israel’s] path in the face of its enemies.” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, has claimed that the rating will return to normal “once we win the war.”

It’s true that Israel’s genocidal war on Gaza has put tremendous strain on Israel’s economy. But that only tells part of the story.

What does this mean?

The Norwegian Pension Fund’s decision to entirely divest from Israel Bonds undoubtedly had an impact on Israel’s credit rating, regardless of whether it did so for any other reason than it was a poor investment.

Five months of war have shaken Israel’s economy, and investors are uneasy. This represents a critical opening for the movement for Palestinian liberation to push even harder for divestment from Israel Bonds.

U.S. state and local treasuries alone have invested $1.6 billion in Israel Bonds; Florida leads them with over $100 million in investments to date. That’s not including the countless universities, unions, corporations, and individuals across the U.S. who have also invested in Israel bonds.

Ending U.S. complicity in the Israeli government’s crimes must include getting these institutions to divest from Israel Bonds. And as we approach five months since the start of the genocide in Gaza, cutting off the flow of all U.S. dollars to Israel’s war chest has never felt more urgent.

Horror beyond comprehension.

In north Gaza, famine has set in. Parked aid trucks stretch on for miles in Egypt, unable to enter the besieged enclave. Palestinians resort to grinding animal fodder and bird feed to make bread, but soon, they’ll run out of that, too. In Gaza City, the Israeli military shoots at crowds of starving people gathering to receive what little aid is still available, sending them fleeing for their lives.

This is not a tragic byproduct of war. It is part and parcel of the Israeli government’s strategy of total annihilation, a policy designed to kill as many Palestinians as possible and to ethnically cleanse their traumatized loved ones who survive them.

In Khan Younis, we’ve watched the Israeli military’s nightmarish siege on Nasser Hospital play out in real time.

A video recorded inside the hospital shows a Palestinian man dressed in PPE, his hands bound with zip ties and eyes wide with terror. The man has been taken hostage by Israeli forces and sent into the hospital to evacuate the thousands of people sheltering inside.

His mother, who has also taken refuge inside the hospital, begs her son not to leave. As soon as he does, Israeli forces shoot him dead. He is one of over a dozen Palestinians who were shot and killed outside Nasser Hospital in a matter of days — an indisputable war crime.

Two hundred patients remain inside without electricity and with dwindling food and medical supplies. At least eight people have died due to lack of oxygen.

“We can see from the hospital a lot of bodies, dead bodies of Palestinian refugees who tried to go outside the hospital or trying to get shelter in the refugee camps outside the hospital got shot in the street and left in the street.”

Khaled Al Serr, a doctor at Nasser Hospital

In Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost city, the Israeli military is preparing to launch a ground invasion. The 1.5 million Palestinians who now live in Rafah, pushed as far southward as they can go by the Israeli military’s relentless bombardment, are now staring down the barrel of mass slaughter and yet another wave of mass forced displacement, with nowhere left to flee. Across the border in Egypt, construction is underway for what appears to be a camp intended to house displaced Palestinians.

Palestinians fear, rightfully, that they will never be allowed to return to their homes in Gaza. Seventy-six years ago, hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were driven from their homes by Zionist militias to make way for the founding of the state of Israel, referred to by Arabs as the Nakba, or catastrophe.

The majority of the people who live in Gaza are refugees: Palestinians who were forced to flee their homes during the Nakba, and their descendants. Today, as a second Nakba looms, securing an immediate ceasefire, lifting the siege, and ending all U.S. support for the Israeli government is more important than ever.