These Residents Sued Palm Beach County Over Its Investments in Israel

Palm Beach County’s $700 million investment in Israel is the largest of its kind globally.

Palm Beach County residents host a press conference urging the county to divest from Israeli bonds.

Palm Beach County residents host a press conference urging the county to divest from Israeli bonds. (Photo courtesy of Break the Bonds South Florida via Prism)

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This story was originally published by Prism.

On May 15, one of the hottest days of the year in Florida, dozens of organizers and community members gathered outside the Palm Beach Courthouse to file an unprecedented lawsuit against the county. The groups are suing Palm Beach County over its substantial financial ties to Israel by taking aim at its investment portfolio, which includes a staggering $700 million in Israeli bonds.

The decision to take legal action comes amid Israel’s genocide of Palestinians in Gaza. Israel has killed more than 35,200 Palestinians since October. The U.S.-backed siege and bombing have sparked outrage from historians, Holocaust scholars, foreign policy experts, and community members, who have labeled it a “textbook case of genocide.”

Palm Beach County has invested 22 times more in Israeli bonds than any other county in the country. This unprecedented investment level has drawn sharp criticism from Palm Beach residents, who believe that allocating such a significant amount of public funds to foreign bonds is both reckless and morally questionable.

“I stand before you not only as a Palm Beach County resident but as a Jewish woman deeply concerned about what we are supporting by holding Israel Bonds and contemplating buying more,” said Alice Wujciak, a Jewish resident of Palm Beach County, during a press conference outside the courthouse on May 15. “As Israel enters its eighth month of reprisals against Gaza, we find Israel relentlessly killing Palestinians and flattening their land, dwellings, universities, hospitals, and infrastructure. We must consider what we are supporting.”

Palm Beach residents presented expert testimony, including insights from a local professor of finance who highlighted the extreme concentration of risk associated with such an investment strategy. The county’s decision to allocate 15% of its investment portfolio solely to Israeli bonds has raised concerns among community members and financial experts alike. Bonds are a loan paid to the issuer with the expectation that they will be paid back.

“[Palm Beach County Comptroller and Clerk of the Circuit Court Joseph Abruzzo] has not only failed us morally, he’s also violated two state statutes in the process,” said David Piña, the attorney filing the lawsuit. “He’s placed 15% of Palm Beach County’s investments in one of the riskiest events going on in the world right now.”

Palm Beach County’s investment in Israeli bonds comes at a time when the county is grappling with its own domestic challenges, including an affordable housing crisis. Last October, activists were arrested simply for feeding houseless community members. Despite the county allocating $200 million in debt financing for housing development last October, many residents argue that the county’s decision to invest more than triple that amount in foreign bonds is misguided. Advocates call on the county to reinvest money in the city’s more urgent needs.

According to organizers, Abruzzo now has 20 days to respond to the lawsuit, and he will have to note which of their claims he accepts or denies.

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Alexandra is a Cuban-American writer based in Miami, with an interest in immigration, the economy, gender justice, and the environment. Her work has appeared in CNN, Vice, and Catapult Magazine, among others.

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