HSBC “crucial link” in oppression of Palestinians

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Campaigners protest inside an HSBC branch in Brighton. (Brighton BDS)

 

12 July 2017 |Asa Winstanley | Electronic Intifada

UK financial institutions hold almost $14 billion worth of shares in companies that provide equipment to the Israeli military, a new report shows.

High street banks are some of the worst offenders, with Barclays holding $1.5 billion in shares and HSBC more than $1 billion, according to War on Want’s new report, Deadly Investments.

War on Want senior campaigner Ryvka Barnard said on Wednesday that, “banks like HSBC are a crucial link in the chain of oppression, facilitating and profiting from the brutal military repression of Palestinians.”

The launch of the report comes just after Palestine solidarity activists held a week of action against banks and arms firms in the UK.

Campaigners held demonstrations at HSBC branches in Brighton, Manchester and London, dubbing it “the world’s lethal bank” – a play on an HSBC ad campaign marketing the global behemoth as “the world’s local bank.”

“HSBC makes much of its ethical credentials yet its contempt for human right rights couldn’t be starker,” Barnard said. “HSBC’s deals with arms companies make it complicit in the suffering endured by Palestinians.”

A global justice charity, War on Want’s latest report calls for a two-way arms embargo on Israel and for banks to divest from companies that sell weapons to Israel.

Loophole

A multinational bank with its headquarters in London, the report details how HSBC profits from Palestinian suffering.

The bank holds $231 million worth of shares in BAE Systems, the UK’s biggest arms dealer. It also holds $131 million in Boeing, which provides Israel with Apache helicopters and Hellfire missiles.

In response to War on Want’s research, HSBC referred the charity to its “defense equipment” policy. The document claimed that the bank “does not provide financial services to customers who solely or primarily manufacture or sell” weapons.

War on Want describes this as a “gaping loophole” which “narrowly defines weapons companies” meaning that “HSBC can invest in and provide services to a company that is clearly part of the arms and military industry so long as the company also has non-military clients and products, as most modern companies involved in the sector do.”

The report describes Israel as “one of the most heavily militarized states on earth,” pointing out that in 2016, Israeli military expenditure was $18 billion, “the third highest per capita expenditure in the world.”

After their deadly wares have been used on Palestinian civilians by the Israeli military, Israeli arms firms such as Elbit habitually advertise their equipment as “field tested.”

The report also details how banks and insurance companies in the UK provide and manage tens of billions of dollars in loans to companies complicit in Israel’s occupation and war crimes.

The insurance and pensions firm Legal & General holds a staggering $5.8 billion in companies which equip the Israeli military.

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