Palestinian students call for Barclays boycott over Elbit investment

The Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI), a group of Palestinian students in Gaza dedicated to the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign of Israel….

The Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI), a group of Palestinian students in Gaza dedicated to the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign of Israel and the global justice movement for Palestinian justice and liberty, respectfully call on students around the world to stop banking with Barclays until Barclays divests from and ceases trading in shares in Elbit Systems, the major Israeli military company and drone manufacturer.

As Palestinians we suffer immeasurably from drone attacks. In 2012 and 2013, drones have killed more of us in Gaza than any other aircraft. As Palestinian Human Rights organisation Al-Mezan point out, drones are so deadly because “they are in the sky all the time, and they (the Israeli air force) don’t have to plan the attack properly beforehand.” Al Mezan found that, “When Israeli forces started to use drones, the number of people killed increased.”

Ayah Bashir, a Gaza-based BDS activist, said: “during the latest Israeli massacre in Gaza, we knew of the ground invasion even before the formal announcement. We heard the sounds of the drones getting louder in a crazy way, as if they were on steroids. In fact, their sound and volume became an indicator for us as to what is coming. Their buzzing sounds were piercing our ears creating cancers in our heads. They were hovering day and night without stopping and we wished they would cease for minutes so that we could sleep. It was funny that my sister and I tried helplessly using earplugs that never helped. At night and when Gaza sank into darkness without electricity, they were both the source of light illuminating the sky and death. They were in such incredibly large numbers that we used to joke saying that Israel is ordering one drone for each person in Gaza.”

“I used to contemplate these drones during the days of the attack. Sometimes, when I can’t stand being trapped inside the house, I would go to the roof and watch them while my father would demand that I come down because they always target us recalling the story of the three children from the Shuhaibar family in the Sabra neighbourhood of Gaza City who were killed while they were just playing on their roof.”

“I often dwell on the persisting and disturbing memories of the drones and think of what an airplane represents in any other place. There, they are a means of transport that facilitate people’s lives. Here, in Gaza, they are a constant source of danger as they may kill you if they identify you as a threat, so much easier and quicker than you could ever imagine.”

Despite Elbit drones being used to commit war crimes in Gaza, Barclays bank is currently the listed as the owner of 50,217 shares in Elbit worth more than $3m.

Barclays has tried to absolve itself of any responsibility by saying its shares in Elbit are held on behalf of clients and to “hedge exposure”. Yet Barclays is profiting from holding shares in Elbit on behalf of its clients and the practise of “hedging” is a form of financial investment. By trading and holding shares in Elbit Systems, Barclays is deeply complicit in the war crimes carried out in Gaza using Elbit’s equipment.

Since Barclays refuse to end this unethical practice 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.

We know that boycotts by students are very effective. During the South African apartheid era, Barclays owned a South African subsidiary bank that made loans to the apartheid government and purchased millions in South African defence bonds. In solidarity with those being oppressed, British students closed their Barclays student accounts and encouraged others to do so. This caused Barclays share of the student market to drop from 27% to 15%. Encouraged by the students’ action, local councils, teachers associations and charities followed suit until Barclays permanently closed its South African subsidiary, having lost millions of pounds in closed bank accounts.

We welcome the decision by the UK National Union of Students to adopt BDS and the wave of divestment campaigns that has swept across North America in the past year.

We are certain that a similar campaign by student activists to switch bank accounts away from Barclays will pressure Barclays to stop investing and trading in Elbit Systems.

Signed by:

Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel (PSCABI)
Gaza BDS Working Group
One Democratic State Group
University Teachers’ Association in Palestine