Europe's Largest Bank to Divest From Israeli Defense Contractor Following BDS Campaign

Britain-based HSBC informed campaigners it has completely liquidated its holdings in Elbit Systems, which 'sells weapons to the Israeli military used in attacks on Palestinians'

File photo: HSBC bank in Geneva, Switzerland, February 18, 2015.
Keystone, Martial Trezzini/AP

Europe’s largest bank confirmed on Thursday that it has completely liquidated its holdings in the Israeli firm Elbit Systems due to public pressure orchestrated by the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, according to a statement by Britain’s Palestinian Solidarity Campaign.

The statement said the British bank, HSBC, agreed to divest from Elbit following a year-long campaign that included regular demonstrations in front of the bank’s 40 branches in Britain and emails from 24,000 people.

It argued that HSBC’s investments in Elbit, “which sells weapons to the Israeli military used in attacks on Palestinians,” violated the bank’s own policies about ties with defense contractors, even if, as HSBC claimed, they were made on behalf of its clients.

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“HSBC has taken a positive first step in divesting from Elbit Systems, the notorious manufacturer of drones, chemical weapons, cluster bomb artillery systems, and other technology used in attacks against Palestinian civilians,” said Ryvka Barnard, a senior campaigner on militarism and security for War on Want, which participated in the campaign.

“However, HSBC continues to do business with over a dozen companies selling military equipment and technology used in human rights violation, including Caterpillar, whose bulldozers are used in demolition of Palestinian homes and properties, and BAE Systems, whose weapons are used in war crimes by Israel, Saudi Arabia and other repressive regimes,” she added.

HSBC informed War on Want and the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign of its decision via email on December 23. On Thursday, sources at the bank confirmed the decision.

In November, short-term rental company Airbnb announced that it would remove all of its listings in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. However, less than a month later, the company announced it has suspended the implementation of its prior decision, after sending a senior delegation to Israel to negotiate with Tourism Minister Yariv Levin.