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HSBC divests from Israeli arms company

In December, HSBC announced that it had fully divested from the Israeli drone manufacturer Elbit Systems, known for selling weapons to the Israeli military used in attacks on Palestinian civilians.

Elbit Systems has been the target of a long-running divestment campaign for supplying surveillance systems and other technology to Israel’s Separation Wall and settlements in the West Bank as well as for the US-Mexico border. The company has also manufactured the white phosphorous and artillery systems that can be used for cluster munitions.

More than 24,000 War on Want supporters emailed HSBC asking the company to end its investments in Elbit Systems and other arms companies selling to the Israeli military. War on Want, who led the campaign, also coordinated monthly protests outside over 40 HSBC branches across the UK, in opposition to the bank’s investments. Through investing in Elbit Systems, War on Want stated that the bank was violating its own policy not to provide financial services to companies involved in the production or selling of cluster munitions.

HSBC’s decision to divest represents a significant victory for both War on Want and the BDS Movement. However, Ryvka Barnard, War on Want’s senior campaigner on militarism and security, stated,

“HSBC continues to do business with over a dozen companies selling military equipment and technology used in human rights violations, including Caterpillar, whose bulldozers are used in the demolition of Palestinian homes and properties, and BAE Systems, whose weapons are used in war crimes by Israel, Saudi Arabia, and other repressive regimes.”

In 2017, HSBC owned shares worth £831 million in companies that sold weapons and equipment to Israel, including £3.6 million in Elbit Systems. War on Want continues its campaign.

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