UK banks accused of funding Israel's war on Gaza

UK banks accused of funding Israel's war on Gaza
UK banks are facing growing protest for their role in Israel's brutal assault on the Gaza Strip, and the occupation more broadly.
3 min read
23 February, 2024
Barclays Bank is facing mounting protest as activists accuse the financial giant of funding the Israeli military [Ioannis Alexopoulos/Anadolu via Getty] ]

Pro-Palestine activists are drawing attention to alleged complicity of British banks in the oppression of the Palestinian people, due to their massive investments in Israeli arms companies and links to illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

On 15 February, protestors stormed the Manchester offices of Bank of New York (BNY) Mellon due to the bank's $10 million investment in Elbit Systems, Israel's largest weapons manufacturer.

Elbit Systems provides 85 percent of Israel's military drone fleet, land-based equipment, and missiles, bullets, and other weaponry that have been used against the Palestinians, marketing its deadly products as "battle-tested" as a selling point.

A protestor during the action at BNY Mellon stated: "The Palestinian people command action, they need action like this and it needs to be more than this…because there are people dying day after day after day."

A BNY Mellon spokesperson rejected some of the claims made by the protesters but did not dispute the investment figure.

"Protesters asserting that BNY Mellon is the largest shareholder of Elbit Systems are misinformed on the facts. As a matter of fact, BNY Mellon holds only a very small percentage of Elbit Systems' stock as a result of requirements by its passive index investment strategies on behalf of clients,"  a BNY Mellon spokesperson told The New Arab.

"The safety and wellbeing of our employees continues to be our highest priority."

On Wednesday 7 February, hundreds of activists shut down Barclays headquarters in Canary Wharf – London's financial centre – to protest at the bank's alleged links to Israel amid its bloody war on Gaza, where 29,000 people - mostly civilians - have been killed.

Activists asked passers-by to close their Barclays bank accounts and "stop banking on apartheid".

According to a 2017 report by War on Want, major financial institutions including Lloyds Bank, Royal Bank of Scotland, HSBC, Standard Chartered, and the Cooperative Bank are funding Israeli arms firms and investing in them.

Neil Sammonds, a senior activist at War on Want, said to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, The New Arab's Arabic-language sister edition, claimed his group and partners had uncovered an alleged links between Barclays and Israel.

He alleged that research showed UK banks, particularly Barclays, had poured billions into companies that provide Israel with weapons used in the violent and unlawful oppression of Palestinians.

Sammonds pointed out Barclays had also supported the apartheid regime in South Africa until it had been "forced to change due to public pressure" in 1986.

"We will continue and escalate our campaigns against Barclays until it stops funding serious, widescale and systematic violations of international law," he said.

Another War on Want report from July 2022 entitled "Barclays Bank: Arming Apartheid" claimed that the bank owned large shares in nine complicit companies at least, including Elbit Systems, which has several UK sites.

A report published by the Don't Buy Into Occupation (DBIO) Coalition in December 2023 alleged that Barclays is the sixth biggest creditor in Europe to companies operating in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank. while UK-based HSBC was the second biggest.

Barclays didn't respond to Al-Araby Al-Jadeed's request for comment regarding the accusations.

This article is based on an article which appeared in our Arabic edition by Katia Youssef on 19 February 2024. To read the original article click here.