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Deutsche Bank announces divestment from Elbit


Germany’s biggest bank Deutsche Bank has divested the bank’s 2% stake in Elbit Systems, an Israeli arms company that supplies the Israeli military and provides components for the Apartheid Wall in Occupied Palestinian Territory that was found to be in violation of international law by the International Court of Justice. The announcement at the Bank’s AGM today follows a concerted campaign from German human rights organisations.

As part of a long term campaign, Pax Christi and International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) asked Deutsche Bank shareholders to vote against a routine motion of confidence in the board of directors because of their failure to divest from Elbit Systems, and activists held a lively demonstration outside the AGM in Frankfurt am Main.

In response, Deutsche Bank chairperson Josef Ackermann told the AGM, “Deutsche Bank is out of Elbit”. Ackermann went on to explain that the bank could not invest in Elbit because of its commitment to voluntary codes of conduct such as the UN Global Compact and even went as far as to deny that Deutsche Bank had ever held shares in Elbit, in direct contravention to figures published by Nasdaq.com.

Wiltrud Rösch-Metzler, Vicepresident of Pax Christi Germany, said, "The end of the investment in Elbit is a huge success. Deutsche Bank assured us that they do not have investments in Elbit. They went out of their way to list numerous standards and international ethical commitments to which the Bank is party to, highlighting how Elbit investments would violate them all. This statement is a landmark position that should guide other German, European and global finance institutions”, she said.

In a passionate speech, Rösch-Metzler had earlier told the AGM: “Do you still remember the days of apartheid in South Africa? Palestinians call it an Apartheid Wall, because it surrounds them, closes them in, shuts them into enclaves; because this Wall creates Palestinian Bantustans. How can Deutsche Bank profit from the oppression of Palestinians? If obvious human rights and international law criteria are violated, will the Deutsche Bank continue to be co-responsible for this?”

The chain of divestments from Elbit started when Stop the Wall, the grassroots Palestinian anti-apartheid wall campaign and a long term partner of IPPNW and Pax Christi, moved together with its Norwegian partners to persuade Norway's Minister of Finance Kristin Halvorsen to announce that the Norwegian State Pension Fund had sold its shares in Elbit, worth $5.4 million. Inspired by this, campaigners in other countries started pressuring finance institutions on the issue. Danske Bank and PKA Ltd, two of the largest Danish pension funds, Folksam, Sweden's largest asset manager and ABP, a Dutch asset manager, have all divested their funds from Elbit Systems.

A spokesperson for the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), a wide coalition of the largest Palestinian mass organisations, trade unions, networks and organisations, said: “Palestinian civil society warmly welcomes the principled decision taken by Deutsche Bank’s to end its complicity in Israel’s oppression of the Palestinian people. This decision by a bank of the clout and size of Deutsche Bank, particularly following similar steps by a number of Scandinavian financial institutions, shows that social and ethical responsibility cannot be ignored in conducting international business. The BNC calls on all people of conscience and supporters of universal human rights in Germany to continue their efforts and to ensure that other German institutions follow the example of Deutsche Bank and divest from Elbit and every other company, Israeli or international, that profits from Israel's occupation and apartheid.”


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