Saint Paul rallies to demand Minnesota divest from Israel
Saint Paul, MN – On August 23, more than 40 protesters gathered outside the governor’s mansion, home to Governor Tim Walz, to demand Minnesota’s State Board of Investment (SBI) sell off its shares in Israeli corporations. The SBI is tasked with investing taxpayer money for public funds, largely state pensions.
The action was initiated by the Anti-War Committee (AWC) and held the evening before the August meeting of the Minnesota SBI in order to raise awareness of the state of Minnesota’s holdings in a variety of Israeli companies, most notably Elbit Systems.
Elbit Systems is a weapons manufacturing and cybersecurity firm which advertises its products as “field-tested.” They are “field-tested” on Palestinians in occupied Palestine, where the Israeli Occupation Forces deploy them against protesters, civil rights organizations, families whose land is being illegally seized by the occupation, and against children in the open-air prison of Gaza. In only the last week, Israel has conducted military raids on seven civil society organizations in Palestine.
An AWC representative said, “These seven humanitarian groups advocate for Palestinian women, children and farmers; document human rights offenses, and strengthen democracy. In pillaging and outlawing these organizations, Israel is frantically trying to dismantle Palestinian society. By investing the pension funds of Minnesotans in Israel bonds, banks and companies, the Minnesota State Board of Investments is complicit in Israel’s cowardly assault on and oppression of the Palestinian people.”
Elbit Systems is also the chief architect of the Israeli apartheid wall in Palestine and is now being contracted to build the racist Mexico-U.S. border wall initiated by Donald Trump and finished by Joe Biden. As Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee member Mari Hernandez said in a speech, when immigrants approach the border, one of the first things they see “is an Elbit Systems security tower looming 160 feet above them.” Minnesota’s SBI currently owns 10,396 shares in Elbit Systems, which are worth $1,170,705 at current market value.
Minnesota and Israel are tied by more than investment and finances. Activists also drew connections between the struggle for the liberation of oppressed nations in the U.S. and the national liberation of struggle of Palestinians fighting to reclaim their land.
Jess Sundin of the Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar brought attention to the program of “deadly exchange” between the U.S. and Israel: “If Black lives really do matter in 21st century America, then the deadly exchange programs with Israel should be brought to an end without delay. I’m talking about the direct training of thousands of police forces, including hundreds from here in Minnesota, by the Israeli Occupation Forces.” These programs teach U.S. police to use the same racist, lethal strategies that are used in Israel, and vice-versa.
Six members of the Anti-War Committee attended the state’s SBI meeting the next day. Meredith Aby-Kierstaad of the AWC presented the State Board of Investment, chaired by Governor Walz, with petitions bearing the signatures of over 1000 Minnesotans demanding that their taxpayer dollars no longer be used to bankroll Israeli apartheid. She told the board, “For years, when peace activists, Palestine solidarity activists, and related groups have called upon to divest from Israel, you have used the excuse of ‘fiduciary responsibility.’ However, shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine, the SBI issued a statement reassuring Minnesotans that they would do everything in their power to divest from Russia.
“Since the SBI issued that statement, the Israeli Occupation Forces shot and killed a 16-year-old Palestinian boy at point blank range. They assassinated prominent Palestinian journalist Shireen Abu Akleh, and terrorized Gaza with yet another bombing campaign that killed 44 Palestinians, one third of whom were children.” She went on to raise the issue of the seven Palestinian civil society organizations which were raided by the IOF in the past week and ended by stating “The Minnesota State Board of Investment is complicit in Israel’s human rights abuses,” and demanded divestment.
Many other local activist organizations signed on to the protest’s demands, including American Muslims for Palestine-MN, Youth for Palestine, Twin Cities Coalition for Justice 4 Jamar Clark, Students for Justice in Palestine-UMN, Minnesota Immigrant Rights Action Committee, Jewish Voice for Peace-Twin Cities, Middle East Peace Now, Women Against Military Madness, Climate Justice Committee, Veterans for Peace Chapter 27, Students for a Democratic Society-UMN, and Minnesota Peace Action Coalition.