PNN/ New York/
Global coalition demands AXA divest from companies violating Palestinian rights
In a report, the US corporate watchdog SumOfUs documented that the French insurance giant AXA is investing over $91 million in Israel’s five largest banks and Israel’s largest private arms manufacturer, Elbit Systems, all companies directly involved in Israel’s war crimes against the Palestinian people.
A growing global coalition responded to the report findings today by pledging more protests, and launching an online campaign expected to deliver thousands of emails to AXA’s CEOs, calling on AXA to respect international law and divest from the complicit Israeli companies.
The new SumOfUs research report, “Axa: Financing War Crimes”, details AXA’s investments in the Israeli banks, which are the backbone of Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise, and in Elbit Systems, which profits from arming Israel’s military. One AXA subsidiary, AXA IM, recently divested from Elbit Systems, but another AXA affiliate, AXA Equitable Holdings, has retained investments in Elbit. In December 2018, HSBC divested from Elbit Systems, following protests by progressive British organizations.
The report states that “as long as these companies support the expansion, construction and maintenance of the illegal Israeli settlements and associated infrastructure, in addition to the unlawful use of armed force against Palestinians, AXA’s investments will make it complicit in serious violations of international law, potentially guilty of French law violation, and definitely in contradiction with its responsible investment policies.”
The five Israeli banks that AXA invests in – Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, Mizrahi Tefahot, Israel Discount Bank and First International Bank of Israel – all provide “direct and substantial” support to the maintenance and development of Israel’s illegal settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, according to reports by Human Rights Watch and the Israeli research organization Who Profits.
Elbit Systems has manufactured cluster munitions banned by international law, and white phosphorus shells, both used against Palestinian civilian populations. It also builds drones used to attack Palestinians in the besieged Gaza Strip, and provides technology for Israel’s apartheid wall, ruled a violation of international law.
SumOfUs reported that AXA’s investments in the five Israeli banks and Elbit Systems increased from $66 million in 2018 to $91 million in 2019, despite AXI IM’s divestment from Elbit Systems.
Coordinator of BDS France, Imen Habib, who is also a leading member of the Coalition Stop AXA Assistance to Israeli Apartheid, said Israel can only maintain its regime of occupation and apartheid over the Palestinian people through support from governments and companies such as AXA.
“As long as AXA maintains its investments in these Israeli banks and Elbit Systems, protests by our growing global coalition will intensify,” she added. “With Israel and the US, with the European Union’s complicity, plotting to undermine Palestinian rights to justice, freedom and self-determination, it’s even more vital that principled civil society coalitions hold complicit companies such as AXA to account.”
Over the last year, the Coalition to Stop AXA Assistance to Israeli Apartheid, which has grown to include groups in nine countries in Europe and the Arab world, has organized coordinated days of protest outside AXA offices, a protest outside of AXA’s annual meeting in Paris, and other actions.
“An insurer should protect lives. Instead, AXA is profiting from the destruction of Palestinian lives and livelihoods.”
-Alys Samson Estapé
Palestinian BDS National Committee’s Europe Coordinator, Alys Samson Estapé said that the Palestinian civil society has called on companies to cut ties of complicity with companies directly involved in Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights.
“To meet its obligations to respect international law, AXA must divest, following the lead of investors like the Presbyterian Church USA and the United Methodist Church (UMC), the Dutch pension fund PGGM and the Norwegian,Luxembourg and New Zealand governments,” Estapé added.
The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) is the largest coalition in Palestinian civil society. It leads and supports the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement for Palestinian rights.