Tony Greenstein | 11 March 2012 | Post Views:

From the Slave Trade to Apartheid South Africa to Zionism in Israel – Barclays is there to make a fast buck

On Saturday Brighton PSC and the Jordan Valley Solidarity Campaign held its 2nd picket of Barclays Bank urging people to tear up their credit cards and withdraw their accounts. Two weeks ago we held our first picket, which forced the bank to close its doors to all but holders of Barclaycard.

A group of people also went inside and held a demonstration (see below).

The reaction we got was fantastic. There wasn’t a single angry or hostile response and people queued to sign our petition calling for Barclays to get out of Israel. Clearly the latest mass murders in Gaza were having their effect.

Barclays played a particularly prominent role in supporting Apartheid in South Africa so it is no surprise that Barclays is the biggest investor in Israel. Barclays just loves Apartheid and the accompanying racism and corruption.

But just as 25 years ago the campaign against Barclays was significant in the campaign to overthrow Apartheid South Africa, so the campaign against Barclays is set to do the same to Apartheid Israel.

Barclays has a long and undistinguished record of involvement in the slave trade. Allegations are that not only were the profits of the slave trade used to help found the bank but that the bank itself was involved in financing the slave trade. The standard retort, that Barclay’s founders were Quakers and therefore abolitionists forgets to mention that in the USA, Quakers were both pro and anti the slave trade and certainly Quaker capitalists engaged in the trade.

This is why the motion from the largest student union in Europe, the University of London Union, 10 months ago to boycott Barclays is so important. Just as the Anti-Apartheid solidarity struggle began in the student movement, so this time around also the boycott movement is finding fertile ground in the student movement.

The days of Zionist influence and control in NUS are receding. When they still retained their influence, the Union of Jewish [i.e. Zionist] Students were able to ban even a Jewish anti-Zionist magazine Return. The days of Lorna Fitzimmons, Stephen Twigg and all the other aspiring New Labour supporters of Zionism are mover with the effective sacking of Adrian Porter.

Barclays is the largest global investor in the arms trade and is the market maker for arms company ITT Exelis.

Barclays is also the only high street bank with significant direct investments in Israeli companies.

The Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) calls for companies to divest from Israeli companies. The call also demands an end to investment in companies profiting from Israel’s occupation. The arms companies, such as BAE Systems, invested in by Barclays fall into this category.

Barclays also hold shares in Unilever, the owner of Beigel, which runs a manufacturing plant in the Barkan settlement industrial zone in the occupied West Bank.

The bank is also attempting to move in to the Israeli High Street. Barclays has an Israeli HQ and, in 2011, applied to operate branches in Israel. If it is successful Barclays will, like all banks operating in Israel, provide loans to settlers and settler industries.

The text of the successful ULU motion which we recommend other unions to adopt is as follows:

Union notes:

1) to boycott is to target products, companies and institutions that profit from or are implicated in, the violation of Palestinian rights

2) to divest is to target corporations complicit in the violation of Palestinian human rights, as enshrined in the Geneva Convention, and ensure that investments or pension funds are not used to finance such companies

3) to call for sanctions is to ask the global community to recognise Israel’s violations of international law and to act accordingly as they do to other member states of the United Nations

4) that in 2009 the The Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa released a report stating that Israel was practising a form of apartheid in the occupied West Bank, (

5) that Israel continues to build a 8 metre high “annexation” wall on Palestinian land inside the post-1967 occupied West Bank, contravening the July 2004 ruling by the International Court of Justice (the highest legal body in the world, whose statutes all UN members are party to) and causing the forcible separation of Palestinian communities from one another and the annexation of additional Palestinian land.

6) that within the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem, Israel continues a policy of settlement expansion in direct violation of Article 49, paragraph 6 of the 4th Geneva Convention which declares “an occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into territories it occupies.” 6) that the Gaza Strip continues to face a suffocating siege from land, sea and air by Israel, and continues to suffer military incursions into the territory by the Israeli army

7) that Palestinians living in Israel continue to suffer third-class citizenship and are heavily discriminated against from healthcare, education, landownership and in many cases having ‘unrecognised’ villages completely demolished

8 ) that there continues to be millions of Palestinian refugees throughout the world who are racially discriminated against by not being allowed to return to their homes in Israel and the Occupied Territories, which is legally recognised under international law, including United Nations resolution 194.

9) that ULU and the NUS nationally adopted the call for BDS in the 1980s when it was called for by South Africans fighting racism and apartheid

10) that Ronnie Kasrils, the Jewish South African Minister of Intelligence said “The boycotts and sanctions ultimately helped liberate both blacks and whites in South Africa. Palestinians and Israelis will similarly benefit from this non-violent campaign that Palestinians are calling for.”

11) that the call for BDS has come from over 170 Palestinian civil society organisations, including student organisations, as well as organisations within Israel and across the global; and that the campaign is founded on the basis of anti-racism and human rights for all

Union Believes:

1) that unions should work to support the Palestinian people’s human rights and uphold international law

2) that BDS is an effective tactic, which educates society about these issues, economically pressures companies/institutions to change their practices and politically pressures the global community

3) that unions have a moral responsibility to heed the call of oppressed peoples, like we did so proudly during the BDS campaign to end South African apartheid

4) that the BDS movement has united human rights campaigners from different nationalities, races, religions and creeds across the world

Union Resolves

(1) Institute thorough research into ULU contacts with investments and companies,including subcontractors, that may be implicated in violating Palestinian human rights as stated by the BDS movement

(2) Pressure University of London universities and affiliate students’ unions to divest from Israel and from companies directly or indirectly supporting the Israeli occupation and apartheid policies;

(3) Promote students’ union resolutions condemning Israeli violations of international law and human rights and endorsing BDS in any form;

(4) Actively support and work with Palestine solidarity organisations such as the BDS Movement, Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, British Committee for Palestinian Universities , Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions

(5) Affiliate ULU to the Palestine BDS National Committee and engage in education campaigns to publicize the injustice of Israel’s discriminatory policies against the Palestinians and its illegal occupation.

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Tony Greenstein

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