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EPF told to cut ties with BlackRock as groups ramp up pressure on Anwar on Palestine policy

Publish date: Thu, 23 May 2024, 09:55 PM

Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim has come under increased pressure over the involvement of a company owned by BlackRock - the global investment fund targeted for complicity in Israeli war crimes - in a consortium to manage local airports.

This time, about two dozen groups are urging the Employees Provident Fund (EPF), the retirement fund under the finance ministry led by Anwar, to terminate any arrangement with the company.

"Our call is motivated by the ongoing genocide by Israel against innocent civilians of Gaza and the need for our government and government-link companies, such as EPF, to be aware of their humanitarian obligation to end all possible complicity with genocide, the crime of crimes," reads a memorandum to EPF signed by 22 groups led by BDS Malaysia, the local chapter of the global movement to boycott Israeli interests.

Together with the government's Khazanah Nasional, EPF will take a stake of up to 70%  in a recently announced consortium to take over Malaysia Airports Holding (MAHB), the government-linked company tasked with managing airports across the country, including the Kuala Lumpur International Airport.

The remaining 30% will be held by Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP), a company that was acquired by BlackRock earlier this year for US$ 12.5 billion.

The inclusion of GIP in the consortium sparked protests, as BlackRock's role in strengthening Israel's economy and its weapons industry has been well documented.

In their memorandum, the groups labelled BlackRock a company that "profits from genocide" and referred to its involvement in the US military-industrial complex.

"It has also been heavily invested in Israel, with operations there since 2016. By continuing to do so, it is refusing to acknowledge the apartheid and genocidal policies of Israel against Palestinians," it said, adding that BlackRock CEO Larry Fink is a "cheerleader of the Israeli genocide of Palestinians".

'No political points-scoring'

The groups said their demand to EPF was motivated by humanitarian reasons and "not by a desire for domestic political points-scoring", adding that the issue was also not about which Malaysian administration should take blame for BlackRock's past acquisition of Malaysian blue-chip shares in the open market.

"None justifies continuing a relationship with it once its complicity with genocide is known," they added.

They cited the efforts of the Zionist lobby in the US to suppress Palestinian voices through "brute financial clout" and "violent suppression" of protests, including during student protests in the US where police invaded campuses to break up encampments to protest Israeli genocide.

They said the actions of Zionist groups in the US showed "how Zionist money is being weaponised".

"That being the case, those who want to see the genocide and war crimes end in Palestine should do the logical thing and not provide any money to the Zionists," the statement continued.

The groups also pointed out that EPF currently allows BlackRock to manage its funds totalling RM932 million in return for "millions in fees".

"The duty of the Malaysian government, EPF and all of us is to make the inevitable happen sooner rather than later - for the sake of the Palestinian people and genuine and permanent peace in the Middle East."

Last week, Anwar dismissed protests against GIP's participation and instead accused opposition politicians of spreading hatred against the government.

The storm over the airports consortium is the latest in a series of decisions by Anwar's government that critics say indicate a departure from the zero-tolerance policies of previous governments towards Israel.

Earlier this month, Anwar defended his government's decision to allow several US defence companies accused of complicity in Israeli war crimes to participate in the Defence Services Asia and National Security Asia trade fairs in Kuala Lumpur.

This includes Lockheed Martin, the defence contractor in which BlackRock holds a 7.4% stake.

BlackRock is also the second largest shareholder of McDonald's Corp and Starbucks, the fast food and coffee chains that are also targets of the global anti-Israel boycott movement, including in Malaysia.

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