The Minnesota State Board of Investment (SBI) has invested one billion in public money in weapons manufacturers, banks, and bonds complicit in the occupation of Palestine.
Divest Now! Hold the Minnesota Bureau of Investment Accountable
Original to Rise Up Times / December 1, 2023
Several people advocating for peace gathered at the Minnesota State Board of Investment Meeting on November 29, 2023 to implore them to stop investing public Minnesota money in the apartheid Zionist state of Israel. That’s a lot of money that could actually be used to help people, including Minnesotans. Instead it goes into the hands of the war industry. Minnesota needs to be more creative in creating jobs that don’t call for death and for destruction and the support of an apartheid state and genocide. That would be a good thing to start spending the money on, along with the climate crisis: Investment in the future of Minnesota.
Here are the statements of three people for peace testifying at the hearing.
Statement by Lucia Wilkes Smith Women Against Military Madness and BDS MN (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions)
I receive a pension through Teachers Retirement Association, and I wish I didn’t need it, because it implicates me in the horrible violence in Gaza. I know you are aware of the heartbreaking reports.
Over these weeks I have read through my travel journals and computer memory. I found letters I’d written to my Legislative Rep., to Mansco Perry [former Director of SBI], and to some of you, 14 years ago and 9 years ago and last year, imploring you to follow the UN Principles of Responsible Investment. Other speakers will present facts and figures.I know you’ve heard it all before.
I alsoknow that divestment from Israel’s weapons industries, banks, and bonds is not the same as “antisemitism” – though I believe elected officials fear being labeled as antisemites or as self-hating Jews. And, perhaps you choose silence or inaction.
It seems the elected officials of the SBI fall back on “fiduciary responsibility” and defer to staff who focus on the highest returns possible. I might offer a suggestion that there would be enormous returns from the sale of fentanyl-laced cocaine or human trafficking of teenaged girls.
Ugh! Now I’m thinking about the kids. Decades ago, I visited Al Ahli Hospital in Gaza City where I met two 12-year-old boys who had been shot by Israeli soldiers because the boys had thrown stones at Israeli army tanks – like young Davids in a reenactment of the ancient Biblical story.
I recall my years of teaching kids that age in Junior High English classes. I was 25 when I learned my students had a nickname for me — “Old Yeller.” I loved it because it was a literary allusion.
You see, I believe in the power of literature. I am certain that stories and poems can touch us deeply and even move us to action. I ask you to make divestment decisions that save my integrity. And, I ask you to hear this poem by Australian writer Em Berry:
Because Of Us
This morning I learned
the English word gauze
(finely woven medical cloth)
comes from the Arabic word غزة or Ghazza
because Gazans have been skilled weavers for centuries
I wondered then
how many of our wounds
have been dressed
because of them
and how many of theirs
have been left open
because of us
Statement by Michael McDonald Veterans for Peace Chapter 27
Thank you for this opportunity to speak to the Board. My name is Mike McDonald. I was an educator in the White Bear Lake and Anoka-Hennepin school districts for 35 years. In retirement I have volunteered at Planned Parenthood; served two terms on the Highland District Council; and for the past 10 years have worked with Veterans For Peace serving as its president for 3 years.
A few weeks ago I read an article about a subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, Forward Edge ASIC, being given loans totaling 1.3 million dollars, from the state of Minnesota and the city of Saint Paul. The loans were to be forgiven if certain hiring levels were met. As a peace activist, I knew Lockheed Martin was the largest ‘arms’ producer in the U.S.
On the SBI website I was able to see that the five leading arms manufacturers in the U.S. are all part of my retirement investments. In SBI’s portfolio Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Boeing, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics holdings total more than 300 million dollars. As Professor Sachs of Columbia University states, ‘The selling of arms has become the business of the United States.’ Where could this money be better spent?”
From my friends at Women Against Military Madness (WAMM) comes this reality: “U.S. military spending will exceed the annual spending of the next 10 countries combined.”
With only 5 percent of the world’s population, U.S. taxpayers will pay 50 percent of the total world’s military spending.
Although 300 million dollars is a small portion of your investments, what kind of message does it send?
The entire investment team has given my retirement sound footing. But at times, what gives us the best returns can be morally questionable.
Veterans For Peace is a global organization of military veterans whose collective efforts are to build a culture of peace by using our experiences and lifting our voices. We inform the public of the true causes and enormous costs of war.
It is my hope that the money invested in the war industry can be discontinued and put towards a more peaceful investment strategy.
Here is what I said and attached is the document I gave the SBI members with divestment info.
I am an associate educator at Bancroft elementary in Minneapolis and an ESP member of the union MFT Local 59. Recently my union passed this resolution supporting Palestinian rights. I’ll read a part of it: “As Americans, we condemn the role our government plays in supporting the system of Israeli occupation and apartheid, which lies at the root of the Palestinian Israeli conflict.”
I have also been a member of the Minnesota Anti-War Committee for years and seen teacher after teacher register their horror at the job you do here with their money. This democratic input has not been acted upon. I don’t know of a single educator that wants our money invested in weapons companies and bombing elementary schools in racist wars. On top of morality and legality these are not safe investments for our retirements, as apartheids have fallen before. But I’m not going to guilt trip you any further, I just want to point the road forward for you and Minnesota to be on the right side of history instead of being remembered as apartheid supporters. I believe Minnesota can be a progressive leader regarding divestment, just as it has on so many other progressive issues in this period.
In 1985, the SBI adopted its “Resolution on South Africa” which was a four-phase divestment program to eliminate its holdings in Apartheid South Africa. By 1992, the Board held stock in only 2 corporations operating in South Africa, seven years to total divestment. I bet you can do it even faster.
We have compiled a list of every investment with regards to Apartheid Israel, divided into Israeli companies involved in settlements, non-Israeli companies involved in the illegal settlements, weapons companies that sell bombs to apartheid Israel, and the language of the 1985 anti-South African apartheid resolution is included on the back page. Pass this same kind of resolution now and divest now. Thank you for your time.
Palestine and the Media, Image: Gulf News
Statement by Sarah Martin Women Against Military Madness
My name is Sarah Martin and I am a retired nurse who worked at Regions Hospital in St Paul . I was able to retire several years ago with a PERA pension. It has benefited me well. But my pension has been catastrophic for the people of Palestine. The almost one billion dollars invested in bonds, weapons manufacturers and companies is complicit in the killing and displacement of Palestinians. I join the demand that you, the SBI, divest these bonds and all other investments involved in the denial of the rights of the people of Palestine including the most basic right , the right to live a long and full life.
As a nurse this latest bombing campaign, unprecedented in this century by every measure of death and destruction was unimaginable. Hospitals were at the center of Israel’s attacks. My pension which I get because I took care of sick and injured people in a state of the art hospital was used to destroy the hospitals of Gaza, 15,000 people, most of them children and women have been murdered and wounded and many more injured.
The heroic healthcare workers worked in impossible conditions. The sheer number of people and severity of their injuries was relenting and overwhelming compounded by the shortages and finally lack of fuel, clean water, electricity, food medicines and gauze due to Israel’s total blockade Even the dead couldn’t be properly buried and hospitals were turned into graveyards. Despite these horrendous conditions, the hospitals closed only when they were forced to evacuate by the Israeli army completing the total destruction of the north of Gaza and making it uninhabitable.
Bombing hospitals is against international law. We have participated in a war crime. We have aided and abetted Israel with political, military and financial aid in this massive crime against humanity, of genocide and of ethnic cleansing.
The majority of the people of the world want justice for the people of Palestine and have shown solidarity by the millions on a daily basis, including here in Minnesota. Now it’s time for the SBI to do the right thing. To be on the right side of history as you were in 1985 when you divested from South Africa.
Not another nickel not another dime, no more $ for Israel’s war crimes.