In 2015, when the “Stop AXA Assistance to Israeli Apartheid Campaign” was launched, the campaign targeted French multinational insurance giant AXA for its investments in Israeli banks, which are deeply complicit in Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise on occupied Palestinian land. AXA was also targeted due to its investments in Elbit Systems, a leading Israeli arms manufacturer facilitating Israeli war crimes against Palestinians, and complicit Israeli banks.
At that time, AXA held shares in three complicit Israeli banks (Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, Mizrahi Tefahot), in addition to Elbit Systems. AXA, via its wholly-owned subsidiary AXA Investment Managers (AXA IM) and its 64% share of AXA Equitable Holdings (AXA EHQ), was, moreover, invested in all five main Israeli banks (Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, First International Bank of Israel, Israel Discount Bank, Mizrahi Tefahot Bank).
Since then, in 2020, the UN Human Rights Council listed all five Israeli banks in the UN database of business enterprises involved in Israel’s illegal settlements. AXA has adopted a mix of investment and divestment decisions (see milestones). In 2018, AXA sold all its shares in Elbit Systems. In 2021, AXA also sold almost all of its shares in Equitable Holdings, retaining only a tiny share of 0.07%, in a process that had Equitable Holdings depart from AXA’s parent group and resume its original name EHQ.
By August 2023, however, AXA has again increased its complicity in Israel’s illegal settlements as a shareholder in 3 Israeli banks: Bank Hapoalim (US$ 9.99M), Leumi Bank (US$ 6M), Israel Discount Bank (US$ 3.4M). The research-based report by “Don’t Buy Into Occupation” (DBIO), a civil society coalition, also shows that by August 2023, AXA had also invested in additional companies directly involved in illegal Israeli settlements or in Israel’s genocide against Palestinians in the besieged and occupied Gaza Strip, among them Caterpillar, Volvo Group, IBM, Carrefour, HPE, Siemens, Airbnb and Solvay. With a total investment of US$ 1.449B, AXA was ranked by DBIO 22nd among the top 100 European investors in apartheid Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise.
Why campaign against AXA?
Israel is only able to maintain its regime of occupation, colonisation and apartheid over the Palestinian people because of international complicity. Corporations play a key role in this. An insurance company should protect lives, not destroy them. AXA’s investment in Israeli banks that finance Israel’s illegal settlements makes it complicit in grave violations of international law.
Although AXA is a signatory of the UN Global Compact, it doesn’t comply with its principles. Israeli banks help create, sustain and grow illegal Israeli settlements, considered war crimes under international law. The French insurer promotes its ethical guidelines, while violating them by investing in Israeli banks that finance the illegal settlements. AXA has a global responsible investment policy, including “sector guidelines” addressing “controversial weapons” and countries that pose a “political risk”. One would think that Israel’s apartheid and theft of Palestinian land would fit the criteria.
AXA has a “Group Policy on Controversial Weapons” which says that it has taken steps to terminate business ties with manufacturers of cluster bombs, cluster munitions, chemical and biological weapons and makers of their components. Elbit Systems makes cluster bombs and has supplied the Israeli army with white phosphorus, which it used illegally against Palestinian civilians in Gaza, killing and injuring hundreds.
Elbit Systems also produces 85% of the “killer drones” used by the Israeli military against Palestinians. The company supplies surveillance technologies and electronic equipment for the Apartheid Wall in the occupied West Bank, which was deemed illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004. Elbit Systems uses its sales to the Israeli army to market its weapons for export as “combat-proven” – which simply means used against Palestinians. Israel’s security forces have used weapons made by Elbit Systems for brutal and illegal violence against Palestinian civilians, including extrajudicial executions, attacks on unarmed protesters, house demolitions using armoured equipment, mass arrests, in addition to the military blockade and large-scale bombings of the Gaza Strip in 2009, 2012, 2014 and 2021.
Note: AXA divested from Elbit in 2018 and has not reinvested in it since then.
Reports by Human Rights Watch and other human rights groups have confirmed that all Israeli banks are involved in the Israeli settlement industry. They provide special loans for companies, government and individual projects in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem (OPT). For example, Bank Hapoalim, one of Israel’s largest banks, finances the construction of housing projects in illegal Israeli settlements in the OPT. It also acts as a guarantor and provides loans to major contractors and construction companies that build in the OPT.
The bank is a guarantor of state loans to the companies that built the Jerusalem Light Rail, an illegal project that is designed to connect settlements together in illegally occupied East Jerusalem. The bank also provides mortgages to homebuyers and financial services to local authorities in illegal Israeli settlements. Bank Hapoalim also discriminates against Palestinian citizens of Israel, refusing to transfer accounts of Palestinian citizens to branches located in what they consider “Jewish populated areas”. The other banks pursue similar practices and are also part of the backbone of the Israeli settlement enterprise and the associated violations of international humanitarian law and human rights of Palestinians
Since 2020, all main Israeli banks are listed in a UN database for their complicity in Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise.
The UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights clarify that “all business enterprises have an independent responsibility to respect human rights, and that in order to do so they are required to exercise due diligence to identify, prevent, mitigate and account for how they address impacts on human rights”.
AXA claims to respect human rights, and to have “established safeguards to identify and prevent serious violations of human rights and environmental abuses” in line with its duty of due diligence and vigilance under international standards and French law. Specifically in the field of investment, AXA publicly commits to “seeking to prevent or mitigate adverse Human Rights impacts that arise from its investment activities”. AXA also claims that it will “achieve carbon neutrality in its insurance and investment portfolios by 2050 on a 1.5°C trajectory”.
Based on the above, since 2020, AXA implements a Responsible Investment (RI) policy, which provides, among others, guidelines and business restrictions for certain sectors, activities and products that “could be inconsistent with AXA’s corporate responsibility goals of protecting people over the long term and may be detrimental to AXA’s brand and reputation”. AXA’s RI policy, however, fails to explicitly identify areas of armed conflict, war crimes and serious human rights abuses, such as Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian Territory and its apartheid policies over Palestinians everywhere, as contexts where investment restrictions and exclusions apply.
Absent relevant guidelines, AXA continues its unrestricted investment in companies deeply involved in Israel’s war crimes, including those named in the UN Human Rights Council’s database or the updated DBIO report. However, when it is convenient, AXA maintains “sector-level blacklists” of companies in which investment is restricted or absolutely prohibited.
Palestinian civil society has long called on AXA to implement a coherent, responsible investment policy and end its complicity in apartheid Israel’s violations of Palestinian human rights as well as in climate destruction. By financing Israeli banks that are the backbone of Israel’s illegal settlements enterprise, AXA is responsible - and possibly legally liable - for aiding/abetting or profiting from war crimes and the crime against humanity of apartheid.
On 12 December 2023, the Don’t Buy Into Occupation (DBIO) coalition published its updated report. The new DBIO report shows that the French insurer AXA had further increased its involvement in Israel’s illegal settlements. By August 2023, AXA had investments of US$ 19.5M in 3 complicit Israeli banks: Bank Hapoalim (US$ 9.99M), Leumi Bank (US$ 6M), Israel Discount Bank (US$ 3.4M).
Moreover, AXA now ranks 22nd in the latest DBIO report with a total investment of US$ 1.449B in additional companies directly involved in the colonial enterprise or in Israel’s genocide against Palestinians in besieged and occupied Gaza Strip, among them Caterpillar, Volvo Group, IBM, Carrefour, HPE, Siemens, Airbnb and Solvay.
AXA took targeted measures against Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine. Yet, despite decades of Israeli apartheid, occupation and repeated massacres in Gaza, AXA continues to invest in Israeli banks financing war crimes.
With its most far-right, fundamentalist and corrupt government ever, Israel is increasingly looking like a #ShutDownNation. As a global insurance company with 95 millions clients, AXA should divest from Israel, not just for ethical and legal reasons.
Marking AXA Group's AGM, Palestine solidarity activists demonstrated creatively in front of the building where the “AGM ceremony” was taking place to increase pressure on AXA to divest from Israeli apartheid. Cheered by drivers and passers by, the activist-singers danced to the rhythm of the famous song "Djadja" by the singer Aya Nakamura, with alternative lyrics written for the occasion. The demonstrators called on AXA to “get out of there,” warning that “one day there will be sanctions” on Israel’s settler colonial and apartheid regime and that will adversely affect AXA.
Ahead of AXA’s General Assembly, hundreds of supporters emailed AXA’s whistleblowing hotline and pressured AXA to divest from Israeli apartheid and implement an external human rights risk assessment.
Belgian members of the coalition Intal protested in front of AXA headquarters in Brussels, calling to #BoycottAXA until #AXADivest from companies involved in Israeli illegal settlements enterprise.
Thousands of people took to the streets during the 3rd International Queer Pride Berlin. A Palestinian block gathered activists around a unity call to amplify the voices of the marginalised, claiming space for diverse identities and demanding “Justice for Palestine”. Among the various signs, the #BoycottAXA call was visible, shaming AXA for its pinkwashing, labelling the company as “Proud supporters of Apartheid” through its investment in Israeli banks–the backbone of Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise.
More than 150,000 people signed the petition demanding AXA stop financing war and environmental crimes. Israeli settlements are not only illegal, they also destroy the environment.
Ahead of AXA’s General Assembly, supporters called AXA Customer Service to say, insuring Israel apartheid and climate destruction is NOT GREEN AT ALL.
Thousands from all around the world participated in a Twitterstorm demanding #AXADivest from companies involved in Israeli war crimes and climate destruction.
For the first time since the beginning of the pandemic, AXA held its Annual General Assembly in person in Paris. Activists from BDS France demonstrated in front of the building and called on AXA to stop financing environmental and war crimes.
During the meeting, a shareholder asked AXA’s board members ‘When will AXA end its financial support for the Israeli settler colonial and apartheid regime?” In response, AXA decided to keep, avoiding its social responsibility. The #BoycottAXA campaign will continue until AXA ends its complicity with Israeli apartheid, settler colonialism and occupation.
To highlight AXA's hypocrisy, several human rights and climate activists donned their costumes and played the role of AXA executives. With consummate dark humour, a theatre troupe staged a press conference parody in which AXA’s “CEO” announced the complete withdrawal of the company from Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise until Israel's apartheid regime has been dismantled and the environmental destruction associated with its aggressive colonial policies has ceased.
Several debates and conferences were organised during the Belgian festival ManiFiesta highlighting the demand for AXA to divest. The festival gathers 10,000 people coming from all over Belgium and beyond.
The “Stop AXA Assistance to Israeli Apartheid” campaign organised a webinar entitled “#AXADivest: Israel’s apartheid and greenwashing”. During this webinar, participants and speakers, including Manal Shqair from Stop the Wall, discussed the concrete impact of climate change on the Palestinian nature and people as well as how Israel’s apartheid is simultaneously preventing the Indigenous Palestinian people from fighting the consequences of climate change and destroying their environment and stealing their land and natural resources. Then, Noelie Audidor from the Gastivists Network analysed the different tactics used by financial institutions such as AXA to greenwash their image to appear green and sustainable while investing in apartheid and colonialism. Finally, Dov Baum from the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) explored the different ways to pressure AXA in order to compel it to respect its obligations toward human rights and climate justice.
On 5 December 2022, the Don’t Buy Into Occupation (DBIO) coalition launched its updated report. The new DBIO report shows that the French insurer AXA had further increased its involvement in the illegal settlements. By August 2022, AXA had invested US$ 15.8M in four complicit Israeli banks: Bank Hapoalim (US$ 6.53M), Leumi Bank (US$ 5.63M), Israel Discount Bank (US$ 3.08M), and Mizrahi Tefahot Bank (US$ 600K).
Moreover, whereas in the previous DBIO report AXA was ranked 30th among the top 100 European investors in apartheid Israel’s settlement enterprise, it ranks 24th in the current DBIO report with a total investment of US$ 957M in additional companies directly involved in the colonial enterprise, among them Caterpillar, Volvo Group, IBM, Siemens, Puma, Airbnb and Alstom.
The report of the civil society coalition « Don’t buy into occupation » (DBIO) published on 29 September 2021 shows that by May 2021, AXA had divested from two of the four Israeli banks in which it had investments back in March 2021. It had also not reinvested in Elbit Systems whose shares it had sold in 2018.
AXA has also sold almost all of its shares in Equitable Holdings, retaining only a tiny share of 0.07% in a process that had Equitable Holdings leave the AXA group and resume its original name EHQ.
At the same time, the new DBIO report shows that by May 2021, AXA was still a shareholder of two Israeli banks: Bank Leumi (US$ 5 million) and Israel Discount Bank (US$ 1.2 million). AXA is also invested in additional companies involved in illegal Israeli settlements, among them General Mills, Manitou, CETCO Mineral Technology Group, RE/MAX Holdings, Solvay and Terex. With a total investment of US$ 845 million, AXA ranks 30th among the top 100 European investors in Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise.
On eve of AXA’s annual general meeting (AGM), United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Michael Lynk, called on the French insurance giant to fully divest from Israeli banks while activists gathered in several cities across Europe raising the same demand.
Protests took place in several European cities urging AXA to divest from Israeli banks that fuel apartheid: Berlin, Madrid, Brussels, Dublin, Milan, Turin, Pisa, Bologna and Trieste.
12,000 people have signed the pledge to boycott AXA.
In March 2021, the Coalition Stop AXA Assistance to Israeli Apartheid learns that AXA has divested over $1M from the Israeli banks in the last year. Investments by AXA in four Israeli banks (Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, Israeli Discount Bank and Mizrahi Tefahot Bank) declined from US$ 7.14 million in 2020 to US$ 5.95 million in 2021 (to date). This is due to the sale of shares (not due to share price fluctuations).
January: A huge demonstration in front of the Bundestag in Berlin, to protest the Bundestag’s repressive anti-BDS measures, highlighted the demand for AXA to divest.
May: The Coalition Stop AXA Assistance to Israeli Apartheid learned that AXA has tripled its investment in four complicit Israeli banks (Bank Hapoalim, Israel Discount Bank, Bank Leumi and Mizrahi Tefahot Bank). AXA still maintains a 9.03% stake in Equitable Holdings, which has dramatically increased its own investments in five banks (the four mentioned above and First International Bank of Israel) and in Elbit Systems.
June: Prior to AXA’s shareholders’ meeting nearly 5,000 people sent emails to AXA CEOs all over Europe, calling on them to completely divest from the complicit Israeli banks and Equitable Holdings. More than a dozen human rights defenders from five countries shared videos calling for AXA to divest, including the artist Code Rouge, the Jurist Ghislain Poissonier and Annette Groth, former MP of DIE LINKE (Germany). Protests were held in Madrid, Brussels, Antwerp, Berlin, and Paris..
Calls for AXA to divest were also present in protests against Israel’s plans to formally annex large swathes of the occupied Palestinian territory.
During the day of the AXA shareholders’ meeting, the Coalition took over the official hashtag #AXAG2020.
September: The Coalition “Stop AXA Assistance to Israeli Apartheid” calls for the boycott of AXA and launches a pledge calling on individuals, organisations and institutions worldwide to boycott AXA until it ends its complicity with Israeli apartheid and human rights violations.
November: Over 270 organizations from more than 30 countries, including trade unions and businesses, signed the pledge to boycott AXA over the last months due to its investment in Israeli apartheid. Among the organizational signatories to the pledge are Sabeel- Kairos UK, the US’s Benedictine University, France’s trade union Union Syndicale Solidaires and Belgium’s Coordination Nationale d’Action pour la Paix et la Démocratie.
Nearly 10,000 individuals, including US scholar and activist Noam Chomsky, signed the pledge over the last months. Campaigners in Belgium, Italy, Ireland, France, Germany and the Spanish state sent the letter with signers to AXA’s CEOs in their respective countries. Additionally, tens of individuals and organizations have canceled their AXA insurance policies, including the Belgian NGOs Viva Salud, ManiFiesta and Intal Globalize Solidarity.
April: The Coalition Stop AXA Assistance to Israeli Apartheid protest outside of AXA’s Annual General Meeting.
July: SumOfUs asks AXA about its investments in the Israeli banks and Elbit Systems. After “careful examination [we] concluded that these companies did not fall within the exclusion framework of [our] responsible investment policy”. SumOfUs publishes report “AXA: Financing War Crimes” proving that AXA’s investments in Israeli banks and Elbit Systems is over $91 M.
August: Over 25,000 people join action to demand AXA end its complicity with Israeli apartheid.
November: The second global AXA Day of Action included mobilizations all around the world, on the same day as the UN International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People and the 4th global climate strike.
February: Tens of cities across Europe participate in day of action.
May: Over 140,000 people sign petition organised by SumOfUs calling on AXA to divest.
June: Launch of the international Coalition Stop AXA Assistance with Israeli Apartheid
December: AXA IM divests from Elbit Systems. The fully-owned AXA subsidiary divests from Elbit shortly after Elbit acquired IMI Systems, a large cluster-bomb manufacturer. Tens of cities participate in a national week of action in France.
April: Activists protest at AXA’s Annual General Meeting.
August: French campaigners asked about AXA’s investments and activities in Elbit Systems. Alice Steenland, AXA’s head of Corporate Responsibility, replied that AXA did an evaluation and found that “Elbit Systems doesn’t make controversial weapons”. This answer is not accurate since many reports document Elbit’s supply of white phosphorus used during Israel’s attacks on Gaza civilians in 2009.
AXA relies on its good image and contracts with public institutions, civil society organizations and private businesses. Effective grassroots campaigning can pressure AXA to end its complicity Isarel’s abuses of Palestinian human rights.
- Ask AXA to divest from companies violating Palestinian rights!
- Get your organization or union to join the international coalition “Stop AXA Assistance to Israeli apartheid.” Email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Organise a protest outside an AXA office or store and post your picture online with the slogans “Not #ProudToBeAXA” or “#KnowYouCan divest from Israeli Apartheid”.
- Boycott/cancel AXA insurance policies. If you are willing to cancel your insurance policy with AXA due to its investments in Israeli apartheid, please let us know.
For more information contact: Fiona Ben Chekroun, BNC Europe coordinator - email@example.com