A group trying to get Minnesota to divest its investments in Israel saw a glimmer of hope this week in its meeting with the state board that controls those investments.
Minnesota Break The Bonds appealed to the State Board of Investment meeting on September 9, 2014 to divest of the bonds the state holds from Israel. The board, which includes the governor, attorney general, state auditor and the secretary of state, controls the investment of all state funds including retirement accounts and trust funds. Minnesota holds $10 million in Israel Bonds and another $15 million invested through the US Agency for International Development, which is considered an investment in Israel.
Divestiture was one of the pressure points used against the apartheid government of South Africa. The Presbyterian Church is one of the groups that recently divested Israeli bonds.
After introducing the witnesses, Governor Dayton focused on his digital device and Auditor Rebecca Otto took notes. At the end of the testimony, Dayton asked his advisers when the bonds expired and if they had to be explicitly renewed. The answer was a June 30 expiration and to be reviewed in March, which Dayton suggested was an appropriate time to again raise the question.
Phil Benson, co-director of the Minnesota Break the Bonds Campaign, saw this as a positive opening in the heretofore one-sided discussion. One critical point is the U.S. State Department grouping of countries related to worker and human rights, intro three categories. Israel is currently in group II, which is a warning to investors. Group II countries are: Brazil, Colombia, India, Indonesia, Israel, Korea, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Peru, Philippines, South Africa, Thailand, Turkey, Venezuela
Group III: China, Egypt, Jordan, Pakistan, Russia
If Israel were moved to group III, the Israeli bonds would probably not be renewed.