Divestment from one of Israel’s major banks is gathering pace in Scotland as Israel’s status as an apartheid state becomes harder to dispute. As Yvonne Ridley reported this week, Lothian Pension Fund’s divestment makes it the third such local authority institution to divest from Bank Hapoalim. Falkirk Pension Fund divested in 2018 in response to pressures from activists and trade unions; in early 2019 Tayside Pension Fund followed suit.
Bank Hapoalim is one of nine Israeli banks listed in the UN’s database of companies helping to develop, expand or maintain settlements and their activities by providing loans for housing and the development of businesses. The long awaited database containing the names of companies complicit in Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise was released last year.
Lothian Pension Fund had defied pressure to divest from Bank Hapoalim until recently, according to timetodivest.net, a website that monitors local authority pension funds investing in Israel and campaigns for divestment from Israeli companies.
Despite the victory there is still a long way to go to convince Scottish firms to completely divest from companies that aid Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise. “Much remains to be done to pressure further divestment by Scottish local authority pension funds from arms companies and other commercial operations which are complicit in what Human Rights Watch refers to as ‘crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution’,” said Time to Divest.
The Lothian decision coincides with remarks by former Israeli ambassadors in which they denounced Israel as an apartheid regime and called on the international community to join the struggle to end the Zionist state’s racist regime in the same way that people united to dismantle the apartheid regime in South Africa.
Their comments came on the back of two high profile reports which made the stark conclusion that apartheid is a reality in occupied Palestine. In April Human Rights Watch (HRW) joined a host of other prominent groups to declare that Israel is committing the crimes of apartheid and persecution. In January, Israeli human rights group B’Tselem said that Israel “promotes and perpetuates Jewish supremacy between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.” Both echoed the findings of the UN’s 2017 report which concluded that Israel was indeed practising apartheid.