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Banking giant HSBC divests from Israel arms manufacturer

Published: December 27, 2018
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Human rights groups have claimed a major victory after HSBC, one of the largest banking and financial services organisations in the world, confirmed that it fully divested from Israeli drone manufacturer Elbit Systems, which sells weapons to the Israeli military used in attacks on Palestinians.

As part of the campaign, over 24,000 people emailed HSBC with concern over its investments in Elbit Systems and other companies selling weapons to Israel’s military. Forty HSBC branches across the UK were picketed monthly to call on HSBC to stop aiding Israel’s brutal occupation and human rights abuse of millions of Palestinians.

Campaigners said that they targeted Elbit Systems because it is one of Israel’s largest arms manufacturers, notorious for its deadly drones used in attacks on Palestinian civilians. Shamefully, the company prides the deadly use of its arms in operations against Palestinians to market its products abroad as “combat proven”. The company has also manufactured white phosphorous and artillery systems that can be used for cluster munitions.

Elbit Systems has been excluded from pension and investment funds around the world over the company’s involvement in supplying surveillance systems and other technology to Israel’s illegal Separation Wall and settlements in the West Bank. Elbit has also supplied surveillance technology for use along the US-Mexico border.

READ: Activists expose UK university’s links to Israel weapons manufacturer

Along with a number of major arms companies Elbit Systems has become the target of campaign groups over the past few years with notable victories for human rights groups. Last month the University of Leeds made the decision to divest from three companies which were found to be complicit in the violation of Palestinian human rights: Airbus, United Technologies and Keyence Corporation. It was seen as another sign of the growing momentum of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement (BDS).

HSBC’s link with Elbit Systems was first exposed in 2017 in a War on Want report on UK banks’ business dealings with companies selling military technology to Israel. The campaign calling on HSBC to divest from complicit companies received a critical boost when the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and other groups joined, picketing bank branches across the UK over its connections to Elbit and other companies.

In making their case to the bank, campaigners said that HSBC has a “Defence Equipment Sector Policy” which specifies that the bank would not provide financial services to companies involved in the production or selling of cluster munitions. Campaigners pointed out that its involvement with Elbit Systems, even if “on behalf of clients” as the bank long claimed, violated this policy as well as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Activists come together to protest outside branches of HSBC bank over shares in an Israeli arms company accused of manufacturing internationally banned weapons [Ryan Ashcroft]

Elbit Systems is rumoured to be on a list currently being compiled by the UN Human Rights Commissioner of companies that are violating international law by providing support for Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise.

Ryvka Barnard, War on Want’s senior campaigner on militarism and security said: “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, and to militarise walls and borders around the world. Doing business with companies like Elbit means profiting from violence and human rights violation, which is both immoral and a contravention of international law.”

“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.”

The activists have vowed to continue their campaign against HSBC’s business relations with more than a dozen other companies selling weapons and technology to the Israeli military.

Related Articles:

HSBC divests from major Israeli arms company ten years after Operation Cast Lead [middleeastmonitor.com]

Sunday, December 23, 2018 - Rio Police To Get "License-To-Kill" 

Brazil is going weapons-free. Up to 120 sharpshooters will accompany Rio de Janeiro police into the city's slums to eradicate violent gun-toting criminals, according to Flavio Pacca - a longtime associate and security adviser to Governor-elect Wilson Witzel.

Researchers from the University of Toronto's amazing Citizen Lab (previously) have published a new report detailing the latest tactics from the autocratic government of Ethiopia, "the world's first turnkey surveillance state" whose human rights abuses have been entirely enabled with software and expertise purchased on the open market, largely from companies in western countries like Finfisher and Hacking Team. In Champing at the Cyberbit, Citizen Lab researchers Bill Marczak, Geoffrey Alexander, Sarah McKune, John Scott-Railton, and Ron Deibert disclose how malware developed and sold by the Israeli company Cyberbit (a subsidiary of Elbit) was used to attack members of the Ethiopian opposition, including political exiles in the USA and elsewhere who were forced to leave Ethiopia in fear of their lives.

U.S. Senate Bill S.720 is set to punish any individual or company that boycotts Israel for its violation of Palestinian human rights. Israeli footprints are becoming more apparent in the U.S. security apparatus. Such a fact does not bode well for ordinary people from the United States. U.S. Senate Bill S.720 should have been a wake-up call. The bill, drafted by the Israel lobby group, U.S. Israel Public Affairs Committee, as part of its “2017 Lobbying Agenda” is set to punish any individual or company that boycotts Israel for its violation of Palestinian human rights.

Israel has been accused of continuing to sell military equipment to the Burmese military even as it faced accusations of war crimes against minority Rohingya Muslims. Pictures on the Burmese Navy's Facebook page "welcome" two Israeli-made gunboats to the military fleet. "Welcome to the Myanmar Navy," the caption says. "The Super-Dvora MK III is moving forward at 45 knots on Myanmar waters." 

Israel is set to use fully autonomous unmanned vehicles along the border with the Gaza Strip, according to a report published by FoxNews.com. While currently unarmed, the Israeli military plans to add machine guns to the so-called Border Protector Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs) by “the beginning of next year”. An unnamed Israeli military official told the website: “This is the future – the border is a very dangerous place… Sending unmanned vehicles to do these patrols means that troops’ lives are not at risk.”

Brazil’s government has excluded an Israeli “security” company from working at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro following a campaign by Palestine solidarity activists. In October 2014, the Israeli firm International Security and Defence Systems (ISDS) announced it had won a $2.2 billion contract with the Brazilian government to coordinate security at the huge sports event. The Times of Israel described the deal as “an unprecedented achievement for Israel,” while senior figures from the company stated it had already begun work.

Israeli defense firm Elbit has been awarded a $145 million contract by the US Department of Homeland Security to construct a series of surveillance towers on Arizona’s border with Mexico, the company announced on Sunday.

With self-detonating grenades, thinking bullets and robot warriors, humans on the frontline could soon be a thing of the past.

The Israeli navy will shortly begin deploying unmanned craft along the Mediterranean coast, particularly off the Hamas-held Gaza Strip in the south and Lebanon in the north where Hezbollah guerrillas operate.

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