What’s your money doing in Palestine?

12th Dec. 2023

Your KiwiSaver could be helping to fuel the cycle of violence. Barry Coates, CEO of responsible investing charity Mindful Money, explains how to check.

Originally written for The Spinoff, published here

The images of dead and injured civilians pulled from the wreckage in Gaza is tragic. But what is even more tragic is that the atrocities committed by Hamas and the Israeli forces will only exacerbate the cycle of violence in Gaza, across Palestine and beyond, for years and possibly generations to come.

As Mahatma Gandhi said: “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”

Historical injustices and a path towards an enduring solution 

The reality is that peace will not be built without justice. For over half a century the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip have been under occupation by the Israeli government. The Palestinian people have suffered from increasing restrictions, brutality and the taking of land and resources.

The New Zealand government has played a role in trying to end the occupation and should do so again. During New Zealand’s tenure on the UN Security Council in 2015 and 2016, achieving a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestine dispute was a focus of the National Party-led government’s work. New Zealand co-sponsored resolution 2334 which was passed by 14 votes to zero, with the United States abstaining.

The resolution stated that Israel’s settlements in occupied Palestinian territories constituted a “flagrant violation” of international law and had “no legal validity”. However, since then Israel has continued to build and fortify illegal settlements, displacing local people, depriving them of their land and access to water, and imposing draconian travel restrictions.

Source: Peace Now; the data does not include the growth in settlements in East Jerusalem.

recent statement by the Council of Elders, a group founded by Nelson Mandela and currently chaired by former President of Ireland Mary Robinson, read: “For too long the world has spoken of a two-state solution while allowing Israel to build a one-state reality. This has suited extremists in Israel and Palestine who deny the other country’s right to exist. It is time to end the empty rhetoric, and implement a serious peace plan that undermines extremists.”

Your investment counts

The illegal settlements are supported by the Israeli military and government, but also by profit-making Israeli and global companies. In turn, these settlements are supported by international investment, including from New Zealand KiwiSaver funds. That’s where we all have a role to play – it is our hard-earned KiwiSaver savings that are invested in the Israeli and global companies that support the settlements. Our investment decisions matter in the real world.

Mindful Money’s analysis of KiwiSaver and managed investment funds reveals that there are 367 funds (out of around 800 total funds) that have invested in companies that are supporting the illegal Israeli settlements. This list of companies draws on research undertaken by the UN Human Rights Council, focusing on the companies with a direct role in maintaining the illegal settlements. The total invested at the end of March 2023 was around $122 million.

While this is a small proportion of the total KiwiSaver and managed funds investment (around $160 billion), it still amounts to significant support. We may be a small country, but we can still stand up for what is right.

In a meeting in Auckland in November, the UN Rapporteur on Human Rights in Palestine, Francesca Albanese, called on KiwiSaver managers to stop investing in the Israeli and global companies that support the illegal settlements.

What you can do

Mindful Money has published a list of the companies identified as having direct contribution to extending and maintaining the illegal settlements, including companies engaged in construction, financing, surveillance and weapons production.

You can check to see if your KiwiSaver fund is currently investing in these companies using the free Mindful Money Fund Checker tool.

If you discover that your fund doesn't sit right with your values, you have the power to make a change. Consider sending an email to your fund provider, expressing your concerns and urging them to divest from these companies.

If you want a fund that truly reflects your ethics, Mindful Money has a free Fund Finder tool to guide you towards KiwiSaver funds that align with your personal beliefs, allowing you to invest in a way that feels right to you. It’s free, quick and easy to make the switch.

Hundreds of thousands of New Zealanders are realising that where their money is invested has real world consequences – for Palestinians, for the environment, for the climate. It is time we took control of how our money is used.