Europe’s largest bank to divest from Israeli defense contractor following BDS campaign
The British multinational bank HSBC confirmed to The Algemeiner on Thursday that it had divested from the Israeli defense company Elbit Systems, saying the move was part of a “regular process.”
The news comes as the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and War on Want, two groups affiliated with the boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, announced on Thursday morning that the bank “fully divested” from Elbit, following a pressure campaign that included emails from over 24,000 people and monthly picketing at 40 HSBC branches across the UK.
The groups, which accused HSBC of profiting from human rights violations through its ties to Elbit, claimed to have received an email from the bank on Sunday confirming the decision to divest. They pledged to uphold their pressure on HSBC, as it still “maintains business relations with more than a dozen other companies selling weapons and technology to the Israeli military.”
PSC head Ben Jamal said in a statement that HSBC’s announcement “demonstrates the effectiveness of [BDS] as a tactic against Israel’s continues flouting of international law and human rights.”
“We now call on HSBC to stay true to the principle of ethical investment by cutting links to all companies which support Israel’s military regime,” he added.
While the bank has not yet issued an official statement on the matter, HSBC sources told The Jerusalem Post that the bank “strongly supports observance of international human rights principles as they apply to business.” HSBC does “not take positions on political issues,” they added.
According to a 2017 report by War on Want, HSBC has 831.5 million pounds ($1.05 billion) invested in companies known to provide equipment to the Israeli military, including BAE Systems, Boeing, Caterpillar, and Raytheon, with 3.6 million pounds ($4.5 million) in Elbit.
The company has been a frequent target of BDS advocates, who say they seek “to isolate Israel academically, culturally, economically and militarily” until it abides by three, key Palestinian demands. The campaign has been described as discriminatory by major Jewish communal bodies worldwide, among them the principal bodies of Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox Judaism in the United States, for rejecting the Jewish people’s right to national self-determination.