HSBC's excuses for arming Israel just don't hold up to scrutiny

Our report 'Deadly Investments' reveals business dealings between some of the UK's best known banks and financial institutions, and 19 companies known to supply the Israeli military with weapons and technology used in the militarised repression of Palestinians, including war crimes. One of the worst offenders, HSBC, holds shares worth £831 million in companies arming Israel. We're asking supporters and allies to write to the CEO of HSBC to raise this issue.

We corresponded with HSBC for several months before launching our campaign and received a totally unsatisfactory response from the bank, which is why we asked supporters to pressure the bank. Not surprisingly, HSBC has responded to people who have emailed the CEO with the same response.

HSBC hides behind its Defence Policy, which has built-in loopholes that allow for it to continue to actively maintain business relationships with some of the world’s largest arms companies. HSBC claims that it has no responsibility for the actions of its clients, even when there is clear evidence that they are acting in violation of international law. This response simply does not hold up to scrutiny.

The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs), endorsed and promoted by the UK government, provide a clear set of standards and obligations for businesses in respect of human rights. They are explicit in stating that companies have a responsibility to take active steps to “avoid causing or contributing to adverse human rights impacts” and to “seek to prevent or mitigate adverse human rights impacts”. In June 2017, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) issued additional guidance clarifying that banks and financial institutions are not exempt from these standards and obligations, and that they apply to their business relationships as well as their own activities.

If HSBC is serious about a commitment to human rights, its first step must be to immediately end its business relationship with companies that arm Israel’s militarised repression.

Here's the full account of our correspondence with HSBC (also on p. 12 of our report):

You can read and download the whole report online here. You can also order free copies of the report along with other campaigning materials.  

HSBC: Stop Arming Israel

Email the head of HSBC, and tell him to end HSBC complicity in Israel's crimes against the Palestinian people.

Latest news

HSBC faces protests at AGM over investments in arms companies supplying Israeli government

24 April 2018 - 2:45pm

Campaign groups demand bank divest from companies they say supply arms used for violence against Palestinians, writes Ben Chapman for the Independent

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HSBC grilled over complicity in human rights abuse by shareholders and campaigners at Friday’s AGM

23 April 2018 - 5:00pm
  • HSBC’s annual general meeting on Friday was attended by activists from War on Want and Palestine Solidarity Campaign, asking the bank about its business dealings with companies selling weapons and military equipment to Israel
  • Over a quarter of questions asked at the AGM were about the bank’s complicity in human rights violations against Palestinians. Several referenced the bank’s criminal complicity in other abuses
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