Since the launch of the BDS campaign in 2005 on the first anniversary of the ICJ ruling against the Wall, the BDS movement has made huge strides in raising awareness about the central role international support plays in sustaining Israeli apartheid.
The campaign against Elbit Systems has had numerous successes and has become a key campaign of the BDS movement since 2007.
Elbit Systems has lost several contracts and deal across the world after BDS campaigns. Some of the lessons learned can be found in ‘The “S” in BDS: Lessons of the Elbit Systems Campaign’ – an account on how some of these victories came about.
Scandinavian countries have been leading the divestment movement that has lead to over a dozen financial institutions excluding Elbit Systems from its portfolio. On March 29th, 2010, the administrators of 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 bn) in the state pension system, fully divested from the corporation. According to AP’s 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.”
Shares in Elbit fell by 3 percent in the days that immediately followed the Swedish announcement.
AP’s refusal to be complicit in Israel’s human rights abuses follows a trend started by Norway in 2009 when the Norwegian Finance Minister announced that the state pension fund was to become the first major fund to divest from Elbit because of its connections to violations of human rights and international law.
A timeline of #StopElbit campaigning:
- September 2009: Norwegian State Pension Fund divests from Elbit Systems.
- 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 Swedish National Pension Fund (AP1, AP2, AP3 and AP4) decide to exclude Elbit Systems from their investments.
- May 2010: Deutsche Bank announces the exclusion of Elbit from its investments. (Deutsche Bank backpaddled later.)
- 2013: RMIT University in Melbourne, Australia, launched a campaign against both BAE and ELbit Systems. The university receives funding, performing postgraduate research.
- May 2013: The Oberlin College student senate voted to divest from Elbit, due to “injustices perpetrated on the Palestinian people by Israel.”
- 2013: Grassroots International launched a campaign against TIAA-CREF to divest from Elbit Systems, as part of a broader worldwide effort against large pension funds and banks.
- April 2014: graduate students at the University of New Mexcio in Albuqeurque, United States, passed a resolution calling for divestment from the companies profiting from human rights violations in occupied Palestine and at the US-Mexico border. The resolution specically targeted Elbit Systems following the company securing a contract with the US government to further militarise the US-Mexico border wall.
- In 2014 UC Santa Cruz‘s student government passed a resolution stating that Elbit is “involved in the construction of the Apartheid Wall in the West Bank [and] Elbit’s Hermes 450 and 900 [drones], equipped with two Spike MR missiles, were used to conduct attacks in Gaza that resulted in civilian casualties.”
- 2014: The Wesleyan University student senate voted to divest its student endowment from Elbit, stating it is “complicit in the illegal occupation of Palestine.”
- 2014: the University of New Mexico’s Graduate and Professional Student Association voted to divest from Elbit, citing its “surveillance systems for the Separation Wall which runs through occupied Palestinian land.”
- March 2014: Loyola University in Chicago passed a divestment resolution against Elbit, which stated Elbit “play active roles in the human rights abuses committed by the Israeli Government.”
- July 2014: the Dutch Delta Lloyd Asset Management excluded G4S (Human Rights violations) and Elbit (Controversial weapons) from their portfolio in the 1st quarter of 2014
- November 2014: After news of protests, Elbit decides not to present its new missile system at Rotterdam arms fair.
- Dezember 2014: On 03 December 2014 the governor of the Brazilian state of Rio Grande do Sul released an open letter announcing the end of a major collaboration deal with Israeli military company Elbit Systems in the wake of protests over the firm’s role in oppression of Palestinians.
- April 2015: In April, UK high street bank Barclays appeared to divest from Israeli arms company Elbit Systems following a high profile campaign that saw direct action protests at its branches across more than 15 cities.
- November 2015: the University of California Santa Cruz student government reinstated a divestment resolution against Elbit that had originally passed in 2014 but was suspended pending an appeals process. The resolution calls on the university to drop its investments in any company that “profits from the Israeli occupation of Palestine.”
- February 2015: Northwestern University students voted to divest from Elbit, citing its involvement in border militarization.
- April 2016: the College Council of the University of Chicago passed a resolution to Divest University funds from apartheid, urging the university “ to withdraw, within the bounds of their fiduciary duty, investments in securities, endowments, mutual funds, and other monetary instruments with holdings in companies profiting from human rights abuses and violations of international law in Palestine, including, Elbit Systems.
- March 2016: the Vassar Student Association voted to support the international BDS movement and to divest from companies profiting from Israeli human rights abuses, including Elbit Systems.
- April 2017: Tufts Community Union (TCU) Senate passed a resolution urging the university to divest from “corporations that profit off the occupation of Palestine and the continued spread of settlements declared illegal under international law,” including Elbit Systems.
- September 2017: On September 25, the Palestine Support Network Australia has announced that, following a sustained campaign, the Royal Flying Doctors (RFDS), South East Section, have announced that they have reversed their initial intentions and have not entered into any commercial or contractual agreement with Elbit Systems Australia.
- April 2018: On April 18, 2018, Barnard College Student Government Association passed a referendum calling for the university to divest from eight companies profiting from Israel’s occupation of Palestine. The companies listed include Hyundai, Caterpillar, Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Elbit Systems, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, and Bank Hapoalim.
- May 2018: On May 23, 2018, the student senate at the University of Oregon passed a resolution to divest from companies including the Strauss Group, the Osem Group, Hewlett-Packard Company, Ahava, General Electric, Eden Springs, Motorola, G4S, Elbit Systems. The resolution also prohibited the purchase of products from Sabra, Tribe, SodaStream, and the companies listed above.
- December 2018: UK banking giant HSBC confirmed to campaigners that it had full divested from Elbit Systems. Over 24,000 people had mailed HSBC asking them to divest and over 40 HSBC branched had been monthly picketed by campaigners.
- On December 2018: On December 31, 2018, AXA IM, a subsidiary of the French multinational insurance company AXA, announced that it withdrew all of its investments in Elbit Systems due to the company’s production and commercialization of cluster bombs. However, AXA is still invested in Elbit Systems indirectly.
- March 2019: On March 3, 2019, the Swarthmore Student Government Organization passed a resolution calling on “Swarthmore College and its Board of Managers to implement a screen on investments in companies involved in repeated, well-documented, and severe violations of international human rights law in Israel / Palestine, including: Elbit Systems Ltd…”
October 2020: the Swiss Association for Responsible Investments, an organization founded by several regional and national public and private pension funds and investors in Switzerland to guide their investment, has added Elbit Systems to its exclusion list.
- February 2021: The East Sussex Pension Fund in the UK has divested from Elbit Systems after almost a year of determined campaigning by activists.