London-based international banking giant HSBC has decided to divest from Israeli defense contractor Elbit, The Jerusalem Post has learned. The move was hailed by pro-BDS groups as “proof positive” of “collective campaigning” against Israel.The decision, seen as a victory for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign, comes one month after the global vacation rental website Airbnb decided to delist sites in West Bank settlements.HSBC sources confirmed to the Post that the bank, said to be the seventh largest financial institution in the world, had divested from Elbit, one of Israel’s largest defense companies and developers of some of the IAF’s most advanced drones. The bank framed its decision to divest from Elbit as a human rights issue, claiming that it “strongly supports observance of international human rights principles as they apply to business.” In addition, it said HSBC does “not take positions on political issues”, seeming to insinuate that it was not connected to the BDS movement.Bank sources would not reveal when the divestment would occur, or what percentage of investments were to be divested.In a statement posted on its website, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), an pro-BDS organization in Britain, claimed “banking giant HSBC divests from Israeli arms manufacturer following pressure from human rights campaigners,” writing “HSBC confirmed to campaigners that it has fully divested from Israeli drone manufacturer Elbit Systems, which sells weapons to the Israeli military used in attacks on Palestinians.”The group claims that more than 24,000 petitioners emailed HSBC with “concern over its investments in Elbit Systems,” which they say is, “one of Israel’s largest arms manufacturers, notorious for its deadly drones used in attacks on Palestinian civilians, and marketed abroad as ‘combat proven.’” According to PSC, Elbit has also provided equipment for construction of Israel’s security barrier in the West Bank.The banking firm HSBC, established in 1865 with offices in Hong Kong and Shanghai, had an operating income of almost $15 billion in 2017, according to an annual report released on its website.PSC, which was heavily involved in pressuring HSBC to divest from Elbit, said on its website that this was just the first step and called on the company to divest from all Israeli arms companies.Ryvka Barnard, from the NGO War on Want said, “HSBC continues to do business with over a dozen companies selling military equipment and technology used in human rights violation, including Caterpillar, whose bulldozers are used in demolition of Palestinian homes and properties, and BAE Systems, whose weapons are used in war crimes by Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other repressive regimes.”The Airbnb and HSBC decision comes in advance of the pending United Nations Human Rights Council publication of its black list of companies doing business with Israeli entries involved in activity over Israel’s pre-1967 lines.
Elbit Vice President David Vaaknin said the company has received no official confirmation from HSBC regarding any decision to divest.
HSBC has also not posted any policy change with regard to Elbit on its website.