UKLFI: Supporting Israel with legal skills

Norwegian Oil Fund warned not to discriminate against Israel

UK Lawyers for Israel (UKLFI) have warned the Ethics Council and Management of Norway’s “Oil Fund” not to discriminate against Israel and Israeli companies.

This follows media reports that consideration is being given to excluding shares in Israeli banks from the investments held by the Fund on the ground that they lend money for activities in Israeli communities in the West Bank (Judea and Samaria).

Norway’s Oil Fund, formally called the “Government Pension Fund Global”, invests Norway’s surplus revenues from oil. It now has a market value of over $1.25 trillion, making it one of the largest funds in the world.

The Fund is managed by Norges Bank Investment Management (NBIM) but decisions to exclude shares in companies from the Fund on ethical grounds are made on the basis of recommendations by a Council on Ethics appointed by the Norwegian government.

A representative of NBIM has stated that NBIM has no plans to exclude Israeli banks, but this does not rule out the possibility that the Council on Ethics is preparing a recommendation to do so.

UKLFI have written to the Chair of the Council on Ethics and the Chief Executive of NBIM, pointing out that discriminating against Israel and Israeli companies, whether directly or indirectly, would be unethical and unlawful.

UKLFI’s letter observes that many companies in which the Oil Fund is invested operate in other disputed territories around the world where the authorities encourage the settlement of their own nationals. The letter refers to examples identified in the reports of the Kohelet Policy Forum at and

Indeed, the second of these reports refers specifically to investments by the Oil Fund in companies active in Moroccan-occupied Western Sahara, where the Moroccan authorities have encouraged extensive settlement by Moroccan nationals. However, none of these companies has been excluded from the Oil Fund. No company has been excluded from the Fund because it supplies goods or services for civilian use in any territory occupied by any country other than Israel.

By contrast, six of the nine companies excluded to date from the Norwegian Oil Fund for alleged “serious violations of individuals’ rights in situations of war or conflict” are Israeli companies excluded because they provide services which may assist Israeli residents of the West Bank (Judea and Samaria) or East Jerusalem.

None of the other companies excluded from the Fund on this ground are excluded because they operate in other occupied territories – the other three companies in this category are excluded for supporting actors who have carried out mass murders in South Sudan and Myanmar.

UKLFI are therefore concerned that policies on exclusions from the Oil Fund have been applied in a discriminatory manner against Israel and Israeli companies in breach of sections 6-8 of Norway’s Equality and Anti-Discrimination Act.

UKLFI’s letter recognises that the grossly disproportionate and frequently misinformed criticism of Israel results in much greater pressure on the Council on Ethics and NBIM to exclude Israeli companies. However, it asserts that this pressure must be resisted if illegitimate discrimination is to be avoided.

It adds that special care must be taken in view of the unreliability of information regarding Israel circulated by NGOs and of reports by national and international organisations based on such information, including the UNHRC’s database of companies operating in the West Bank.

Moreover, given the disproportionate scale and intensity of criticism of Israel, the Council on Ethics and NBIM must themselves investigate the position in other disputed territories around the world in order to avoid discrimination against Israel and Israeli companies.

UKLFI’s letter also refers to points previously made by the NGO, Med Israel for Fred (MIFF), in a letter to Norges Bank and the Council on Ethics in June 2021.

UKLFI’s letter concludes that until steps have been taken to end discrimination against Israel and Israeli companies, no further exclusions from the Oil Fund should be made on the basis of activities in territories administered by Israel.

Jonathan Turner, Chief Executive of UKLFI, said: “Ethical policies must themselves be applied ethically. This cannot be achieved by relying on reports of other organisations whose bias is notorious.”