A wave of UK protests were held outside branches of HSBC bank over shares in an Israeli arms company accused of manufacturing internationally banned weapons.
Protestors directed their anger against the bank’s $4.7 million worth of shares in a number of Israeli arms manufactures, including Elbit system, calling on the bank to sever ties with the firms accused of abetting Israel’s crimes against Palestinians.
Elbit Systems manufactures and supplies the Israeli military with drones, which are used regularly in attacks on Palestinian civilians, especially in Gaza Strip. It was recently revealed that an Elbit Hermes 450 drone was used during a 2014 attack in which four Palestinian children were killed on a Gaza beach while playing football.
Demonstrations were staged at more than 30 different UK branches. HSBC is a major shareholder in other arms companies supplying Israel’s military including BAE Systems, Boeing and Raytheon. HSBC holds over a billion dollars’ worth of shares in companies selling weapons to Israel.
The bank is also accused of arranging syndicated loans worth at least $25 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.
Huda Ammori, campaigns officer at the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: “Israel’s racist discrimination and brutal violence 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.”
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,” Barnard continued.
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 targeted 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.