French multinational insurance giant AXA invests over $91M in Israeli weapons manufacturer Elbit Systems and in the top five Israeli banks (Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, Bank Mizrahi-Tefahot, First International Bank of Israel and Israel Discount Bank) that finance Israel’s illegal settlements.
In December 2018, AXA took a positive step when its subsidiary AXA Investment Managers (IM) divested from Elbit Systems. But AXA remains complicit with Israeli apartheid because it still holds shares in Elbit through AXA Equitable Holdings and in Israel’s complicit banks.
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 of over $91M in Elbit Systems and in top Israeli banks make it complicit in violations of international law and contradicts its own responsible investment policy.
Israeli banks help sustain and grow illegal Israeli settlements, considered war crimes under international law. Elbit Systems provides technology for Israel’s illegal Wall in the West Bank, its bombings on Gaza and the company ´field-tests´ its weapons on Palestinians as a way to gain lucrative contracts abroad.
The French insurer promotes its ethical guidelines while it violates them by investing in Elbit Systems and the five top Israeli banks maintaining the illegal settlements. AXA has a global responsible investment policy and within it “sector guidelines” addressing “controversial weapons” and countries that pose “political risk”. One would think that cluster bombs, military occupation and land theft would fit the criteria.
Cluster bombs used in grave human rights violations and the material support for illegal settlements, considered war crimes under international law, cannot be considered ethical.
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. AXA IM, AXA’s fully owned subsidiary, divested from Elbit Systems.
But despite its responsible investment policy, AXA is still has an investment of over $1.2M to Elbit Systems through its affiliate AXA Equitable Holdings.
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 and 2014.
AXA invests over $90M in the top five Israeli banks: Bank Hapoalim, Bank Leumi, Mizrahi Tefahot, First International Bank of Israel and Israel Discount Bank. 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 (OPT). The five Israeli banks in which AXA is a shareholder are no exception. 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 have similar discriminatory practices against Palestinians and are also part of the backbone of the Israeli settlement enterprise.
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.
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.
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.
- 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 [email protected]
- 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”.
- If you want to cancel your insurance policy with AXA due to its investments in Israeli apartheid, please let us know.