Creating new perspectives since 2009

Swansea University students win over divestment demands

June 10, 2024 at 4:45 pm

Pro-Palestine protest in Cardiff, Wales on 6 April 2024 [voice_wales/X]

Students at Swansea University in Wales have won a commitment from the university administration to divest from Barclays Bank, which is alleged to be complicit in Israel’s ongoing genocide in Gaza, the Palestinian Information Centre has reported. The decision came after a 28-day campus protest against Barclays, which is said to provide billions in loans to companies that provide weapons to Israel. It is one of the most significant concessions won by pro-Palestinian protesters yet.

The university administration has also committed to ensuring that all of its investments follow an ethical investment policy. Moreover, it says that it will change the scholarship policy so that Palestinian students can access the process, and will not suppress any political speech on campus.

According to the website of Britain’s Socialist Workers Party, the chancellor of the university has put these commitments in writing through an email to the students. The move was welcomed by the Palestine Society at Swansea University, which described it as an “important victory” as a result of their just demands. The society suggested that the university should also call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, which is one of the student protesters’ demands.

Barclays Bank has been the subject of a number of protests. The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) is among the groups calling for its customers to move their fund away from the bank, which has “substantial financial ties” — more than £2 billion ($2.5bn) in shares — with arms companies supplying weapons to Israel.

The bank has denied such reports, and claims that it only “trades in shares of listed companies” on the instruction of clients. “We are not making investments for Barclays and Barclays is not a ‘shareholder’ or ‘investor’ in that sense in relation to these companies.”

According to the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, though, its members picketed the Barclays Bank AGM in Glasgow last month in the same week that research was published showing that Barclays, rather than reflecting on its investments linked to the Israeli war machine in a time of genocide, has doubled its investments. “The bank is now investing over £2 billion in companies whose weapons or components have been used in military attacks on Palestinians in Gaza, whilst providing a further £6 billion in loans to such companies,” claimed the SPSC.

“Barclays, of course, has a significant track record in terms of investing in gross human rights violations and choosing the side of the oppressor,” the organisation added. “In the 1970s and 1980s it was called the ‘Bank of Apartheid’ for propping up the South African government, providing significant loans whilst most were imposing embargos.”

Given that Israel has been assessed to have passed the threshold of an apartheid state by major human rights groups B’Tselem, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International, it seems that apartheid is a particular passion for Barclays.

READ: Palestine Action takes aim at Barclays Bank in England, Scotland