Activists who are part of the Highland Palestine group gathered today at Inverness Town House to show solidarity with Palestinians on Nakba Day.
The group, of which around 80 gathered, took to the city landmark to show support with the people of Palestine amid rising tensions and conflict in Israel.
The group chose the famed Town House as the location as they also protest the investment of Highland Council’s pension funds, which they say have been placed in bonds linked to arms dealers.
The group claim broker Pyrford has invested council funds in weapons manufacturer General Dynamics, who have manufactured bombs that are currently being used in the conflict in Gaza.
Highland Palestine say they have uncovered a clause with Pyrford that allows those investing funds to opt out of investments with companies if they do not feel comfortable in doing so, something they claim Highland Council has not done.
‘This isn’t something that just happened in the past – it is still happening’
Derek Newton, of Highland Palestine, said: “We are coming out on the street to show our support for the Palestinian people and to stand in solidarity with them of this terrible suffering that they are going through.
“We are also drawing attention to the fact that this isn’t something that just happened in the past – it is still happening.
“The events that we have been seeing in Jerusalem in the last few weeks are just a continuation of this process of dispossession of the Palestinian people – this process of expulsion and disposition is still ongoing.”
He added: “The weapons that are being used right now in Gaza are manufactured by a company that Highland Council pension fund has investments in.
“These bombs are contributing to thousands of civilian deaths – and something needs to be done about it.
“The money that they are investing in the pension scheme comes from council tax payers and we have a right to have some say in this.
“Essentially Highland Council pension fund is profiting from war crimes.”
Pension fund independent from Highland Council
A Highland Council spokesman said: “The Highland Council pension fund is independent from Highland Council and decisions regarding investment principles are made by the pensions committee (membership of which includes but is not exclusive to Highland Council councillors).
“The decision making process for the pensions committee is scrutinised by the pensions board whose membership includes employer organisation and member representatives.
“The fund’s approach to responsible investments is set out in the Statement of Investment principles at: https://www.highland.gov.uk/download/meetings/id/77901/item_5_-_statement_of_investment_principles which is reviewed alongside the triennial actuarial valuation.
“There is an investment sub committee responsible for monitoring the performance of the fund’s investments.
“Fund managers have been appointed to manage assets on behalf of the Highland Council pension fund and their performance and approach to environmental, social and governance issues is reviewed and scrutinised regularly by the investment sub committee.”
What is Nakba Day?
Nakba Day is recognised internationally and is observed on May 15 each year.
The day commemorates the displacement of Palestinians when the Israeli state was founded in the aftermath of the Second World War.
The word Nakba translates from Arabic as catastrophe or disaster, with the occasion designed to remember 700,000 Palestinians who were forced to flee as a result of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and seek refuge in nearby countries such as Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.