A WELSH council pension fund has more than £97m invested in companies "complicit" in Israeli human rights abuses against Palestinian people, new research has shown.

The figures, uncovered by Rhondda Cynon Taf Palestine Solidarity Campaign (RCT PSC) - some of whom say they are themselves employed by the council - show that the pension scheme has invested a total of £97,825,382 in these firms.

The companies include fossil fuel giant Exxon Mobil, which supplies the Israeli military with diesel for its attack helicopters and bomber planes, along with arms company Lockheed Martin and holiday site Booking.com, which has previously listed properties for rent on Israeli settlements illegally established by confiscating land and property from Palestinians.

The RCT PSC group has called on the council to withdraw its investments in these firms.

"These investments are a cause of great concern to our members, as these companies are complicit in human rights violations in several ways -  including through activity in, or with, Israel’s illegal settlements in Palestine, or through supplying weapons and military technology used in unlawful violence around the world, including in Palestine, and Yemen – where the Saudi-led bombardment has contributed to creating one of the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophes in the world," RCT PSC said.

The group says it had written to RCT councillors Mark Norris and Gareth Caple, who are members of the pension fund committee, asking them to "ensure that members have a decent pension, but not at the expense of some of the most oppressed and vulnerable people in the world, or the future of the planet."

RCT Council told The National that it will "continue to monitor and engage" on the issue, and that it expect firms to have "strong human rights policies".

When employees of RCT Council make pension contributions from their monthly pay, the money is invested in stocks on the employee's behalf, with any earnings from these investments going towards providing an income for the person upon their retirement.

Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the RCT pension fund announced that it would be pulling its money from any investments with Russian firms.

"In light of the terrible events we have witnessed and the economic sanctions imposed internationally, as a collective we have decided to divest from these holdings as soon as is practically possible," Councillor Clive Lloyd said at the time.

In February this year, human rights charity Amnesty International published a report on the treatment of Palestinian people by the Israeli government, which it said amounted to "apartheid".

"Whether they live in Gaza, East Jerusalem and the rest of the West Bank, or Israel itself, Palestinians are treated as an inferior racial group and systematically deprived of their rights," the charity said.

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"We found that Israel’s cruel policies of segregation, dispossession and exclusion across all territories under its control clearly amount to apartheid.

"The international community has an obligation to act."

At least 313 Palestinians - 71 of them children - were killed in 2021 by Israeli forces according to B'Tselem, an Israeli charity documenting atrocities on the ground in Palestine, and the UN estimates that just under 2,000 Palestinians have had their homes demolished over the past six months alone.

The RCT PSC has found that their local council pension fund has invested in 17 companies with links to illegal Israeli settlements.

At £14m, the largest single investment was in American multinational General Electric. According to research group Who Profits, GE sells engines and other kit for use in Israeli military vehicles.

The fund has invested £11.6m in IT company Hewlett Packard, which provides servers and tech to the Israeli government for its prisons and population registry. The population registry issues IDs that determine a person's level of rights, depending on their ethnicity and citizenship status.

“Investments in relation to the Palestine Territory is an important topic which is recognised by the RCT Pension Fund, and indeed in its pooled investment arrangements with the Wales Pension Partnership," the council said.

While consideration of Envrionmental, Social and Governance (ESG) risks are an "important part" of the pension fund's obligations, it added, "funds are unable to simply be driven by ethical considerations when enacting its fiduciary duties relating to investment matters."

“The Fund recognises that Human Rights abuse and United Nations Global Compact breaches can represent a material ESG risk to investment assets, in the form of governance risks (including controversy risk and reputational risk)," the council went on.

"We also recognise that these risks can also form, or develop into, financial and legal risks.

“The RCT Fund expects companies to have strong human rights policies and management arrangements in place to deal with the unique issues associated with operating in regions of conflict."

It highlighted that Robeco, an asset management company contracted by the Wales Pension Partnership, has launched an "engagement theme that focuses on enhanced human rights due diligence", which will consider the occupied Palestinian Territory.

RCT Council concluded: "We would further note that the RCT Pension Fund is a member of the Local Authority Pension Fund Forum (LAPFF), which has also been undertaking work on this topic.

"Following meetings with various organisations, LAPFF has been monitoring the ongoing situation in the [Palestine] territories and have reached out to companies that its members have exposure to, to seek engagement meetings.

"The aim of these engagement letters was to ascertain whether these companies had undertaken human rights impact assessments on their operations and if not, encourage them to do so.

“The RCT Pension Fund – in collaboration with the WPP, LAPFF and Robeco – will continue to monitor and engage on this topic to ensure that potential ESG risks associated with this topic are appropriately managed.”

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