MN protests upcoming SBI meeting to demand divestment from Israel
Saint Paul, MN – In lively spirits backed by a score of endorsing car horns, over 50 Palestine solidarity and anti-war activists demonstrated in front of the Minnesota Governor’s Mansion on February 25, demanding that the Minnesota State Board of Investment (SBI) divest from apartheid Israel, as it did from apartheid South Africa.
The action was initiated by the Anti-War Committee in the lead up to the SBI’s Thursday meeting, where the Anti-War Committee will deliver this demand to the Board, speaking on behalf of over a thousand Minnesotans who have signed onto their petition to divest.
The Minnesota State Board of Investment has put over $800 million in taxpayer money into entities recognized by the United Nations and watchdog groups as perpetrating or complicit in Israel’s brutal, illegal apartheid occupation of Palestine. These entities range from Elbit Systems, an Israeli weapons company whose technology is used to terrorize Palestinians and migrants at the southern U.S. border; to Israeli state bonds, banks and businesses directly involved in their illegal land-grab settlements; to complicit multinational corporations.
Speakers at the rally highlighted the escalating violence of the Israeli regime, which killed 231 Palestinians in 2022, including 49 children. That was the highest death count since 2006, but 2023 is far outpacing it, with over 60 victims in two months. “Just this last Wednesday, the Israeli Army killed eleven Palestinians and injured over 100 during a raid on the city of Nablus in the occupied West Bank. The Israeli army fired indiscriminately in a public space, killing and injuring bystanders of all ages,” Nick Williams of the Anti-War Committee said, noting the horrific scale of Israeli terror attacks.
“These are not just numbers, these are Palestinians who have names, who have faces, who had families who cared about them, who had hopes and dreams in life,” Ali Abu-Atieh of American Muslims for Palestine emphasized. Speaking of the death and dehumanization Israeli forces inflict on Palestinians, he stressed, “none of this is possible without our tax dollars.”
Williams expanded,“Our own State Board of Investments is using our taxes to fund this brutal apartheid state. The Minnesota SBI has invested the pensions and retirement plans of our teachers, nurses, fire fighters and other state employees in an occupation that is built on genocide and apartheid.”
The animating principle of the Zionist project is mass dispossession and ethnic cleansing. “Between 1947 and 1949 alone, entire Palestinian communities were murdered or expelled from 400 villages at least,” said Skyler Dorr of Freedom Road Socialist Organization, speaking of the Nakba, the homicidal birth of the Israeli state. “Around 750,000 people fled or were expelled from their homes.”
The same practice continues in Israel’s illegal West Bank settlements. The day after the protest, mobs of Israeli settlers killed a Palestinian and injured almost 400 others as they rampaged around the Nablus area, assaulting residents and setting fire to at least 30 homes. Eight settlers were arrested by Israeli forces and were all released within days.
“Standing with the Palestinian people to demand their right to return, their right to their nation from the river to the sea is not anti-semitic, it’s anti-imperialist,” Dorr explained, as a Jewish anti-Zionist. “Our liberation isn’t found in stealing land, homes and lives from other people. Our liberation is in standing beside them, fighting for a better world – the Israeli occupation of Palestine doesn’t represent us, and Elbit Systems certainly doesn’t represent us!”
Lucia Smith, a retired teacher whose pension is handled by the SBI, told the crowd about a young Palestinian boy whose emergency room surgeon she met when she visited Gaza. Recalling that the boy was shot by a bullet which the doctor handed to her, Lucia expressed the deep guilt she now feels as the pension fund she depends on includes dividends from an Israeli arms and ammunition company like Elbit Systems. “I don’t want to profit from the killing of Palestinians,” she said.
By its funding of Israel’s occupation, the SBI has tied the financial viability of state employee retirement systems to the solvency of a recognized apartheid regime. Not only has this made Minnesotans like Lucia Smith unwitting profiteers of war crimes and apartheid, it will also leave them holding the bag when justice comes for Israel, just as it came for South Africa. That is, if the Minnesota State Board of Investment does not divest.
The protest was endorsed by American Muslims for Palestine – MN, Jewish Voice for Peace – Twin Cities, MN BDS Community, MN Immigrant Rights Action Committee, MN Peace Action Coalition, MN Workers United, Northfielders for Justice in Palestine/Israel, Students for a Democratic Society – UMN, Students for Justice in Palestine – UMN, Twin Cities Coalition 4 Justice 4 Jamar, Veterans for Peace – Chapter 27, Women Against Military Madness, and Youth for Palestine MN.