BUST ELBIT: Stop bankrolling the Israeli war-driving economy
This article was written in 2010 as a contribution to a BNC e-magazine commemorating the 5th anniversary of the BDS call in July 9th 2005. Click here to read other articles in the magazine.
The call to divest from Elbit Systems Ltd. has become a key element in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement aimed at ending Israeli occupation, colonialism and apartheid against the Palestinian people.
One and a half years after Stop the Wall Campaign initiated campaigning efforts within the framework of the BNC (Palestinian BDS National Committee) to pressure international investors across the world to divest from the Israeli corporation, victories for the Divest Elbit campaign are beginning to mount rapidly. This BNC campaign is part of wider BDS efforts, which seek to hold Israel and its supporters accountable by pressuring Israel on all fronts - politically, culturally, and economically.
Founded in 1967, the Israeli company has become one of the world’s premiere “security and defense firms,” specializing in military electronics, surveillance systems, Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAVs), and homeland security systems. It is a symbol for the Israeli economy, which essentially thrives on and fuels war, repression and control in Palestine and around the globe.
Elbit Systems is built on the expertise of the Israel Ministry of Defense Research Institute and has profited greatly from supplying the Israeli military with a variety of equipment used to sustain Israeli occupation of Palestine. It produced the drones used in the wars and attacks against Gaza and Lebanon, to name a few, and provides equipment for the Israeli Merkava tanks. The Israeli Apartheid Wall, which is crippling Palestinian communities by isolating them in walled-in ghettos, has provided a massive source of revenue for Elbit. Elbit Systems provides “intrusion detection systems” for the Wall, in particular around Jerusalem. Subsidiaries Elbit Electro-Optics (El-Op) and Elbit Security Systems supplied and incorporated LORROS surveillance cameras in the Ariel settlement section as well as around ar Ram. One product made by Elbit Systems, “Torch”, is manufactured specifically for use on the Wall.
Elbit offers its experience in ghettoizing and killing Palestinians to repress other people. In 2006 Elbit Systems American subsidiary Kollsman Inc. won a contract to participate in the creation of the US – Mexico border wall
On June 9th, 2004, the International Court of Justice ruling on the legal consequences of the Wall not only confirmed the illegality of the Wall under international law, but also insisted that all state parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention are obligated “to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law” and thus “not render any aid or assistance in maintaining the situation created by [the construction of the Wall]”. Thus, actors who aid Israel in the construction of the Wall are, by association, in breach of international law, including, as the ICJ ruling highlights, the United Nations Charter, international humanitarian law and human rights law.
Many international finance institutions and pension funds have additional ethical guidelines or are part of international human rights frameworks, such as the UN Global Compound, which include provisions against complicity with human rights violations and war crimes.
Because Elbit Systems is knowingly participating in and aiding Israeli war crimes and Israeli occupation of the Palestinian people, by extension, investors in the security firm constitute accessories to Israel’s many violations of international human rights standards. After grassroots movements and campaigners raised awareness of this relationship fear of bad publicity caused many pension funds and finance institutions to pull their investments from Elbit, reflecting a strong message that the world is increasingly becoming unwilling to bankroll Israeli crimes.
SUCCESSES OF THE CAMPAIGN TO DIVEST FROM ELBIT:
Since the launch of the campaign in 2005 on the first anniversary of the ICJ ruling against the Wall, the BDS movement has made huge strides that have raised awareness about the central role international support plays in sustaining Israeli apartheid.
There have been many successes in the movement to divest from Elbit Systems Ltd. May 28th, 2010 marked the latest significant victory for the campaign, as Deutsche Bank, Germany’s biggest bank, announced it was ‘out of Elbit’ and confirmed exclusion of the company from its portfolio because it does not meet Deutsche Bank’s ethical standards. Deutsche Bank was previously listed among the top ten investors in the corporation.
Scandinavian countries have been leading the divestment movement. On March 29th, 2010, Sweden’s national pension funds announced that they were excluding Elbit Systems from their investment portfolios. The Swedish AP funds, which manage assets of more than 800 billion kroner (110 billion dollars) in the state pension system, fully divested from the corporation. According to the funds’ Ethical Council, Elbit was excluded because it “can be linked to violations of fundamental conventions and norms through its active development, delivery and maintenance of a custom-made monitoring system for certain parts of the separation barrier being built in the West Bank.”
Elbit’s shares fell by 3 percent in the days that immediately followed the Swedish announcement. However, Israel’s response to the Swedish funds was curiously weak, only stating that it was a “regrettable” decision. This muted reaction suggests that Israel is struggling to find an effective way to counter the BDS movement’s rapidly growing momentum.
This refusal to be complicit in Israel’s human rights abuses follows a trend started by Norway in 2009, when the Norwegian Finance Minister announced the divestment of the Norwegian state pension fund and made it the first major fund to divest from Elbit for its connection to violations of human rights and international law.
A timeline of Divest Elbit successes :
September 2009: Norwegian Pension Fund divests.
September 2009: Kommunal Landspensjonkasse (KLP), one of the largest life insurance companies in Norway divests from Elbit
January 2010: Danske Bank, the largest bank in Denmark and a leading player in the Scandinavian financial markets, divests, making it one of only 24 companies from which the Danish bank has divested. Thomas H. Kjaergaard, the staff member responsible for socially responsible investment at Danske Bank states: "We handle clients' interests, and we do not want to put customers' money in companies that violate international standards."
January 2010: Danwatch, the Danish financial watchdog adds Elbit to its blacklist of 35 companies that are disqualified from investments due to ethical considerations.
January 2010: PKA Ltd., one of the largest Danish pension funds, sells shares in Elbit worth 1 million dollars. The PKA's investment director, Michael Nelleman tells the Stop the Wall campaign that "the International Court of Justice stated that the barrier only serves military purposes and violates Palestinian human rights."
February 2010: Folksam, Sweden's largest asset manager, responds to an inquiry regarding its investments in either Elbit or Africa-Israel, that the fund did not have holdings in either company. Folksam's Head of Corporate Governance, Carina Lundberg Markow, writes to The Electronic Intifada: "We have a strict policy regarding activity on occupied land." She notes that KPA Pension, a leading Swedish pension company in the public sector, also did not have holdings with either Elbit or Africa-Israel.
February 2010: ABP sells Elbit shares worth 2.7 million dollars.
March 2010: The First, Second, Third and Fourth National Pension Fund (AP1, AP2, AP3 and AP4) decide to exclude Elbit Systems from their investments.
May 2010: Deutsche Bank announces divestment from Elbit.
Links to more information:
To see a list of current investors in Elbit, go to: http://www.nasdaq.com/asp/holdings.asp?symbol=ESLT&selected=ESLT
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