Barclays bank was known overseas in the financial industry in the 1980s as 'Boerclaysbank', due to its continued involvement in South Africa during the apartheid regime. A student boycott of the bank led to a drop in its share of the UK student market from 27 per cent to 15 per cent by the time it pulled out in 1986
From: Electronic Intifada
THE BRITISH BANK Barclays has come under fire for its holdings in Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest military company and the main supplier of drones used to attack and kill Palestinian civilians in Gaza. The bank is the named owner of $2.9 million worth of shares in Elbit.
More than 1.7 million people have signed a petition calling on Barclays to divest from “projects that finance illegal settlements and the oppressive occupation of the Palestinian people” and campaigners have occupied and protested at bank branches across the UK.
Elbit’s share price rose in July off the back of the extensive use of its technology during Israel’s summer massacre in Gaza, which killed more than 2,100 Palestinians, including some 500 children.
The company advertises its products as “combat proven” and recently reported a backlog in orders worth $6.2 billion.
Through its holdings in Elbit Systems, Barclays is profiting directly from Israel’s deliberate targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure. Such targeting has been described by Amnesty International and Palestinian human rights organizations as amounting to war crimes.
Barclays market analysts have also talked up Elbit shares, recently rating their stock as “positive.”
Call for action
Elbit Systems supplies Israel with Hermes drones that have been used to deliberately attack and kill Palestinian civilians, including during this summer’s onslaught on Gaza. According to data from the Al Mezan Center for Human Rights, armed drones killed more than 1,000 Palestinians in Gaza between 2000 and 2010.
Analysis of Palestinian Centre for Human Rights reports by drone researcher Mary Dobbing found that 800 drone strikes took place within a fifty-day period during Israel’s most recent attack on Gaza.
In a joint statement published last month, Palestinian student groups described Barclays as “complicit in the war crimes carried out in Gaza using Elbit’s equipment” and called on UK students to close their accounts with Barclays.
“Since Barclays refuse to end this unethical practice [of] investing and dealing in shares in Elbit despite the fact that their drones kill us, our children, our parents, our brothers, sisters and friends, we ask for students to close their student Barclays account and tell Barclays why,” the statement explains.
But in a bizarre move, Barclays appears to be denying that holding shares in Elbit amounts to profiting from Israeli militarism. In a statement published at the height of Israel’s massacre of Gaza, Barclays claimed:
“Barclays holds a very small number of shares in Elbit Systems Ltd on behalf of clients and to hedge exposure against customers facing transactions. Holding shares in companies on behalf of clients, as well as maintaining appropriate hedging strategies, is normal practice for banks, but does not equate to an investment made by Barclays.”
Barclays repeated the main thrust of this defense in a recent email exchange with Corporate Watch, a UK-based research cooperative. Even if true, holding shares on behalf of others hardly seems like an adequate defense: Barclays is facilitating investment in Elbit and collecting a healthy commission on each trade in Elbit shares.
But it is the reference to “hedging strategies” where Barclays’ claims really start to come unstuck. In this context, hedging is the practice of buying a number of shares that one is confident will rise in price to offset potential losses that may be incurred by a more risky investment. In other words, Barclays is investing in Elbit shares to make money from the predicted rise in their price.
"Ducking its commitments"
Ryan Brightwell, a researcher with the Banktrack network of campaign groups tracking the operations and investments of private sector banks, finds no ambiguity:
"A bank has a choice of whether or not to make an investment on behalf of clients," he explained. "Shareholdings in Elbit for hedging purposes are investments, and could easily be replaced by other shares with a similar risk profile.
"Barclays has a policy commitment to remedy human rights violations it is linked to. But instead it is ducking its commitments and continuing to deal in a company which provides drones that have been used to bomb Gaza," he said.
Corporate Watch asked Barclays how it squares its trading in Elbit shares with the bank's claim not to invest in the arms trade. Barclays spokesperson Will Bowen told Corporate Watch: "We are not 'investing' in these companies, i.e. seeking to generate a return. We are simply holding the shares on behalf of clients — this is standard practice. Barclays Stockbrokers offer a range of companies for customers to invest in … It's not for us to tell customers what they can and can't invest in."
When pushed for further detail on the use of Elbit shares for the purposes of hedging, which clearly amounts to a form of investment, Barclays declined to comment.
Out of step
Barclays describes its holdings in Elbit as part of "normal practice." But Barclays is badly out of step with other major European investors.
The Norwegian state pension fund, leading Danish bank Danske Bank, Dutch pension giant ABP and the Swedish AP pension fund have all divested from Elbit Systems. Investment experts have told campaigners that Elbit appears on most blacklists prepared by socially responsible investment research companies.
Very few other European banks appear on a list of institutional shareholders invested in Elbit published by Nasdaq.com, suggesting that most European banks believe that the company's role in Israeli war crimes make it an inappropriate investment.
Financial data provider Orbis states that Barclays also holds 4.25 percent of the total shares in BAE Systems. The huge UK military company has sold to Israel components used in F16 fighter jets and has applied for licenses to export other military equipment to Israel.
The bank is also a named investor in General Dynamics, Raytheon, Meggitt and four other companies that provide military equipment to Israel.
Support for apartheid
When South Africa was under white minority rule, a Barclays subsidiary made loans to the apartheid government and bought up millions of defense bonds. The campaign against Barclays was one of the most visible forms of solidarity in the UK with the South African struggle against apartheid.
A campaign encouraging students to boycott Barclays meant that the bank ultimately saw its share of the student market drop from 27 percent to around 15 percent. Encouraged by this popular movement, many local councils, trade unions and charities divested from Barclays.
In 1986, Barclays bank announced its withdrawal from South Africa after a decade of high-profile campaigning. In addition to being remembered as one of the big UK companies that took the longest to end its support for apartheid, Barclays is known today as being one of the clearest examples of everything that is rotten with modern capitalism.
In the past few years alone, Barclays has been exposed as having: avoided more than £500 million ($783 million) in taxes, promoted overseas tax havens,manipulated inter-bank interest rates and defrauded customers. Just recently,it was involved in rigging currency markets, all while continuing to pay out billions in bonuses to its top executives.
The question now is whether or not Barclays will continue to defend its investment in Elbit and thus add active support for Israeli apartheid to its long list of crimes.
(Source: Electronic Intifada)
What now for the Middle East?
The whole question of Palestine/Israel and Iraq/Syria transcends the issues of religion, race, colour or creed. From the compassionate point of view it is matter of humanity while from the colonialist point of view it is about subjugating an entire people and stealing their land and resources.
The Zionists are not really Jews at all – Zionism is a political movement which is about protecting initially European and then American interests in the Middle East. These interests are principally the theft and control of the resource of (other people’s) oil. Judaism is a monotheistic religion whose genuine adherents could surely never condone the slaughter and stealing which is done in its name.
The word terrorism is constantly applied to Muslims – Islamic extremists, Islamic fundamentalists, Islamic terrorists, Islamic militants and so on.
The same adjectives are never used when describing the much greater violence of the likes of Christian gentlemen like George W Bush and Anthony Charles Lynton Blair whose prophetic vision was of a Christian caliphate. This dominion was their version of democracy i.e. Iraq and then Iran being managed by other Saddams and Shahs who would do the West’s bidding for a price.
The two gulf wars were presented as clean conflicts with minimised `collateral damage` when in fact hundreds of thousands were killed in the Gulf War of 1991 followed by perhaps a million more under the savage sanctions regime which was implemented by the UN – actually the US with some legitimising British support. Ghastly weapons like Depleted Uranium (DU), cluster bombs and phosphorus were used which cause birth defects and cancers to this day just as Agent Orange does in Vietnam some 40 years after the war ended.
As Gore Vidal once so succinctly out it “Why are they (the US government) so anxious to have democracy abroad when they are so reluctant to have it at home.” He also once famously said “Why become a senator when you can buy one?” In addition he described the US as the `best democracy that money can buy`.
Incredibly after all the murder and mayhem unleashed against Iraq by Gulf Wars 1 and 2 and by the genocidal sanctions regime the West wants to invade Iraq again. It’s getting hard to keep up with all these invasions. Despite the spin and hype it’s becoming more difficult to justify these unprovoked attacks.
As I write this it is being revealed that hundreds of British troops are to be sent to Iraq – what does `hundreds` mean? Hundreds of thousands? Speaking to the Daily Telegraph British Secretary of State for Defence Michael Fallon boasted that British aircraft had flown a "huge number" of missions "second only to the United States, five times as many as France", Mr Fallon told the newspaper.
Where is this all going to end? In tears I shouldn’t wonder.