Protests as UN Official warns AXA’s ties to Israeli banks constitute a human rights violation
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. The warning came as protests took place in Dublin and other European cities to demand AXA divests from Israeli banks that fuel apartheid.
AXA currently invests US$6 million in four Israeli banks which finance the illegal Israeli settlements on confiscated land in the occupied Palestinian territory (OPT), including East Jerusalem.
Speaking ahead of AXA’s AGM Mr Lynk emphasized that:
“Given the gross human rights violations associated with the Israeli settlements, it is impossible for businesses to be economically engaged with the Israeli settlements and still respect their obligations under international human rights and humanitarian law.”
“Both direct and indirect corporate involvement constitute a breach of international human rights”, he continued.
The UN official then outlined the European Union’s view of the current situation in the OPT, calling it a “One state reality of unequal rights, perpetual occupation, and conflict”.
His statement comes just two days after Human Rights Watch released a groundbreaking report confirming that Israel’s regime over the Palestinian people (in present day Israel, the OPT, and the millions of internal and external Palestinian refugees) constitutes a system of apartheid.
The report calls on businesses to “assess whether their goods and services contribute to the crimes of apartheid and persecution” and to “cease providing goods and services that will likely be used for such purposes.”
Mr Lynk then made a direct call to AXA to fully divest the four Israeli banks financing the illegal Israeli settlements, warning that all of the Israeli banks which AXA has invested in are listed on the UN database of companies involved in the settlement economy.
“For corporates like the French insurance company AXA, this represents a moment of truth. By investing in Israeli banks which finance the illegal Israeli settlements on confiscated Palestinian land, AXA becomes entangled with these gross human rights violations.”
Activists across Europe turn up the heat on AXA ahead of its AGM
Protests took place in several European cities urging AXA to divest from Israeli banks that fuel apartheid.
In Dublin, activists from the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) held a small and socially distanced protest outside AXA’s headquarters using AXA’s slogan #KnowYouCan to say “AXA, you know you can Divest from Israeli Apartheid!”.
In Brussels and Berlin activists protested in front of AXA’s headquarters, and in Berlin they then cycled through the city with big placards calling for the boycott of AXA.
In Madrid activists visited different AXA offices, sharing leaflets of the campaign and details on AXA’s investments.
In Italy campaigners reached out to the majority of AXA offices, warning them about the boycott campaign and highlighting the risks resulting for the French insurance company, if it doesn’t divest soon. Activists also protested outside AXA’s HQ in Milan and in front of offices in Turin, Pisa, Bologna and Trieste.
Since the launch of the boycott call last September, over 12,000 people, including scholar Noam Chomsky, and 270 organisations have signed the pledge to boycott AXA.
Recently, New Zealand Superannuation Fund has divested from Israel’s five main banks. An assessment by the NZ Super Fund concluded that holding shares in Israel’s biggest banks would violate its responsible investment policy and cited. New Zealand’s 2016 vote in support of UN Security Council resolution 2334 which reaffirms the illegality of Israel’s settlements.