Wave of UK protests to hit HSBC over Israeli arms company shares

17 September 2018 - 1:15pm
Press release
  • Multiple protests planned across the UK targeting high-street bank on 15 September 2018
  • HSBC has millions of pounds worth of shares in Elbit and other companies arming Israel
  • Activists say bank must sever ties with firms abetting Israel’s crimes against Palestinians

HSBC branches around the UK will be targeted Saturday 15 September by campaigners protesting the British high-street bank’s business dealings with companies selling weapons and equipment to Israel used in violence against Palestinians.

Demonstrations will be staged at more than 30 different branches by activists calling on HSBC to sever ties with companies arming Israel.

The bank holds shares in arms company Elbit Systems, which manufactures and supplies the Israeli military with drones, used regularly in attacks on Palestinian civilians, especially in Gaza Strip.

An Elbit Hermes 450 drone was recently revealed to have been used by Israeli in a 2014 attack in which four Palestinian children were killed on a Gaza beach while playing football.

HSBC is a significant shareholder in other arms companies supplying Israel’s military including BAE Systems, Boeing and Raytheon. In total HSBC’s holds £831 million worth of shares in companies selling weapons to Israel.

It also arranged syndicated loans worth at least £19.3 billion to companies like Caterpillar and United Technologies which provide equipment used by Israel’s military in human rights violations, and even war crimes, against Palestinians.

Ryvka Barnard from War on Want said: “HSBC is a major shareholder in companies selling weapons and military technology to Israel including Elbit Systems, which manufactures drones and surveillance technology, and has recently sold the Israeli military an artillery system specifically chosen for its ability to be used for cluster munitions.”

“HSBC claims to have a strict policy against doing business with companies involved in cluster munitions production, but as of 2017, it held £3.6 million worth of shares in Elbit Systems. HSBC must divest from Elbit, and all other companies complicit in grave human rights abuses.”

Huda Ammori, campaigns officer at the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: “Israel’s racist discrimination and brutal violence and against Palestinians is clear for all to see.”

“More and more of HSBC’s customer are deeply unhappy about the bank’s involvement in the arms trade with Israel which enables these daily violations. Until HSBC stops making a killing from Israel’s deadly attacks on Palestinians, these protests will continue to grow.”

The coordinated protests – planned in Manchester, Birmingham, several London branches and multiple other UK locations – form part of an ongoing campaign which has seen over 20,000 people email HSBC Group Chief Executive John Flint on the issue.

Branches of the bank in over 20 UK locations have been targets for regular protests and pickets since the campaign was launched in July 2017. In April this year, shareholders at the bank’s AGM also called on the HSBC board to divest from Elbit Systems and other companies supplying weapons to Israel.

Press Contact

Ryvka Barnard: rbarnard@waronwant.org 

Marienna Pope-Weidemann (Press & Communications Officer)
020 7324 5060 / 07983 550 728 / media@waronwant.org / @WarOnWant

Hashtags: #StopArmingIsrael and #HSBComplicity

Notes for editors

HSBC’s £3.6 million shares in Elbit Systems were revealed in War on Want’s 2017 report Deadly Investments. As well as drones, Elbit has produced the internationally banned chemical weapon ‘white phosphorous’, which Human Rights Watch documented Israel using in attacks on Palestinian in 2009. Elbit also produces artillery systems for cluster munitions - which are banned by an international treaty signed by the UK but not Israel – and has sold to the Israeli military as recently as August 2017. Israel’s heavy use of cluster munitions is still causing devastation and destruction in Lebanon, where they were used in copious amounts in 2006. 

HSBC’s investments in Elbit contravene its own policy on cluster munitions, as outlined in its Defence Equipment Sector Policy, as well as the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights which explicitly state that companies have a responsibility to take active steps to avoid contributing to adverse human rights impact. The UN Commissioner for Human Rights has clarified that this applies to banks’ business relationships as well as their own activities.

Israel uses extensive and often lethal military force against Palestinians, including the  killing of over 166 unarmed protesters in the Gaza Strip since March 2018. Israel’s attacks on Palestinians, especially its 51-day bombing assault on Gaza in 2015 and the brutal repression of the Great Return March this year, as well as the illegal and inhuman siege of Gaza, have been identified as grave human rights abuse and war crimes by international human rights experts, including the United Nations.

 

HSBC: Stop Arming Israel

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

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