Bad banking

If you are really concerned about human rights, perhaps you might consider using some of your own income to invest in the Palestinian economy.

December 31, 2018 23:05
3 minute read.
HSBC and Barclay's buildings are lit up at dusk in the Canary Wharf financial district of London

HSBC and Barclay's buildings are lit up at dusk in the Canary Wharf financial district of London, Britain, November 19, 2018. (photo credit: TOBY MELVILLE/REUTERS)


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The London-based HSBC, Europe’s largest bank and the seventh largest financial institution in the world, dropped a bombshell on Israel at the end of 2018 by announcing it would divest from Elbit Systems, the Israeli defense contractor engaged in a wide range of programs throughout the world, including the production of advanced drones.

The move, which comes a month after the global vacation rental website Airbnb delisted sites in Jewish settlements, was predictably praised by groups that support the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement as the fruitful result of “collective campaigning” against Israel.

According to a statement by the UK-based Palestinian Solidarity Campaign issued on December 27, HSBC decided to liquidate its holdings in Elbit due to public pressure orchestrated by the BDS movement. The statement said that HSBC agreed to divest from Elbit following a year-long campaign that included regular demonstrations in front of the bank’s 40 branches in Britain and emails from some 24,000 people.

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.” Although at the same time, it stressed that HSBC does “not take positions on political issues.” Let’s be clear. If this is an official decision by HSBC, then it has taken a very strong position on a patently political issue – against the State of Israel. And if this decision is based on “human rights,” presumably referring to the rights of Palestinians, then how does it promote these rights and does the bank not believe that Israel has a right to exist?

Bank sources would not reveal when the divestment would occur, or what percentage of investments were to be divested, but it does smack of the kind of campaign that was used against apartheid in South Africa. Does this mean that it has fallen for the false narrative propagated by BDS that Israel is an apartheid state? Also, if this was a decision based on “human rights”, then why is HSBC not announcing the divestment from other defense contractors, like those in the United States that sell to Arab countries in the Persian Gulf or those in the United Kingdom that arm governments in Africa?

HSBC informed the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) and War on Want, an anti-poverty charity based in London, of its decision via email, last week.

In a statement posted on its website, the PSC said that “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.”

According to PSC, Elbit has also provided equipment for the construction of Israel’s security barrier.

So, if the PSC is correct, HSBC has decided to divest from Elbit because its technology is used in IDF drone surveillance of Palestinian terrorists who launch attacks against Israel and was used in the building of the security fence that prevents terrorists from attacking Israelis.

So how is this justified? HSBC, if this is your final decision, you will go down on the wrong side of history. Do you understand that Israel is using Elbit technology to protect itself against Palestinian terror, and not to undermine the rights of the Palestinian people?

If you are really concerned about human rights, perhaps you might consider using some of your own income to invest in the Palestinian economy, and boost cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian institutions.

It should be noted that Elbit Vice President David Vaaknin said the company had received no official confirmation from HSBC regarding any decision to divest, HSBC has not posted any policy change with regard to Elbit on its website either.

Still, as we enter 2019, we strongly urge HSBC – and others who have fallen for the BDS lie – to reconsider their position. In order to play a constructive role in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, countries and companies around the world should not be boycotting either side, but rather encouraging the two sides to engage in a dialogue which is aimed at achieving a peaceful solution to the conflict.

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