AXA Belgium Urged to Divest from Israeli Arms Company and Israeli Banks

In International Advocacy Program by CIHRS

On November 29, 22 organizations sent a letter addressed to AXA Belgium CEO Jef Van In urging AXA to divest its investments in Elbit Systems, an Israeli arms company, and five Israeli banks totaling $91 million.

Elbit Systems provides technology that is used for Israel’s Annexation Wall, ruled illegal by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and manufactures drones used to indiscriminately bomb the Gaza Strip killing Palestinian civilians. Israeli banks provide services to support, maintain, and expand Israel’s unlawful settlement enterprise by financing construction in the occupied West Bank.

The following is the text of the letter.

To Jef Van In
CEO, AXA Belgium
Dear Mr Van In,

As Belgian civil society and international human rights organisations dedicated to human rights and the environment, and representing thousands of citizens and residents of diverse ages and backgrounds, we write to express our concern about the harm being caused by AXA’s investments and to inform you of our commitment to bring those investments to public debate.

In particular, we oppose AXA’s investments totaling $91 million in Israeli arms company Elbit Systems and in five Israeli banks. As documented by global advocacy organisation SumofUs, AXA’s financing of these companies helps fuel war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territory.

AXA took a positive step last year, when its fully-owned subsidiary AXA IM divested from Elbit Systems. Nevertheless, according to SumofUs, AXA still invests $1.2 M in Elbit Systems. Elbit Systems provides technology for Israel’s wall, declared illegal by the International Court of Justice. Elbit manufactures the drones used to indiscriminately bomb Gaza and kill Palestinian civilians. The company also produces cluster bombs, which triggered HSBC’s divestment from Elbit. We note that in 2006 Belgium became the first country to ban cluster munitions.

According to Human Rights Watch, “Most of Israel’s largest banks are providing services that help support, maintain, and expand unlawful settlements by financing their construction in the occupied West Bank.” Israeli settlements are illegal and are considered war crimes under international law. They rob Palestinians of land, resources and livelihoods. The five Israeli banks AXA finances (Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, Bank Mizrahi-Tefahot, First International Bank of Israel and Israel Discount Bank) are key pillars of this oppression.

AXA has a global responsible investment policy and says it is committed to sustainability and human rights. We ask: are investments that turn a blind eye and encourage war crimes, violations of human rights and international law consistent with this policy? In addition to the issues raised, we join the opposition against AXA’s continued investment in fossil fuels that render reaching Paris agreement targets more difficult.

We are open to engage and would welcome a meeting with you. Failing action on your end, the Coalition to Stop AXA Assistance to Israeli Apartheid, which has now spread to Belgium, will be launching a campaign to raise the issue of AXA’s unethical investments with the Belgian public. This work may negatively impact AXA’s brand perception and lead to a loss of clients so long as AXA continues to invest in Israeli war crimes against Palestinians.

We urge you to divest.

The undersigned:

  1. The socialist union for cultural workers in Belgium
  2. Palestinian community in Belgium
  3. Human Rights League
  4. Another Jewish Voice
  5. National Coordination of Action for Peace and Democracy (CNAPD)
  6. North South Forum
  7. International Federation for Human Rights
  8. Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
  9. Cultural Presence and Action (PAC)
  10. Friends Without Borders
  11. Palestine Solidarity (vzw)
  12. Arab Women’s Solidarity Association-Belgium
  13. Intal Globalize Solidarity
  14. ACOD-vrt
  15. Viva Salud
  16. Écolo j
  17. Solsoc
  18. Agir Pour la Paix
  19. FairFin
  20. Bankwijzer
  21. Vrede vzw
  22. Vredesactie

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