April 24, 2024

Has the LDS Church divested itself from an investment linked to the ‘Hamas money machine’?

(Ohad Zwigenberg | AP) Destroyed cars are seen at the rave party site near the Kibbutz Re’im, close to the Gaza Strip border fence, on Tuesday, Oct. 10, 2023.

A recent New York Times there article — titled “Israel found the Hamas money machine years ago. Nobody turned it off.” — depicts how Hamas was funded generally and then how the money was used to finance its operations. The article concentrates primarily on Turkey’s involvement, but also on many Western investments.

Of particular local interest is the following report: “Foreign investors piled in [in a real estate development firm named Trend GYO, a company found to be at the center of the Hamas portfolio] . . . . In 2019 while Washington sat on the ledgers, American and European banks held more than 3 percent of the company’s publicly traded shares on behalf of clients, Turkish financial records show.”

The LDS church was one of those investors: “The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints’s Investment arm Ensign Peak Advisors, bought more than 200,000 shares.”

The Times does provide an excuse for the investment: “There is no indication that the church . . . knew about any Hamas ties at the time. A church spokesman said that a U.S.-based investment adviser, Acadian Asset, bought the shares on its behalf.”

Nevertheless, Israeli authorities have now concluded that this influx of money not only helped Hamas prepare for the Oct. 7 attacks, but also gave leaders confidence that they would have the money to rebuild afterward. This opinion was voiced by five Israeli security officials.

It is of particular interest to know who is the church spokesman, and if the LDS Church, while apparently having no knowledge of Hamas ties, has divested itself of this investment, and if so when, and if not, why not.

Gene Fitzgerald, Salt Lake City

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