Many Scottish universities have been reported to own significant shares in companies with dealings in the West Bank.
Glasgow is one of the many Scottish universities outed to have illegal shares in companies related to West Bank settlements. Scottish universities appear to be profiting off of firms that have illegal dealings in the West Bank. The area is currently under the control of Israel, which the UN accuses of human rights violations against the people of Palestine.
Collectively, Scottish universities have been found to hold over £2m worth of shares in business with West Bank-related dealings which is deemed, under international law, illegal. The University of Glasgow has significant investments totaling £751,568 in companies such as Bank Hapoalim, which is currently under scrutiny by the Boycotts, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement and the Human Rights Watch. This information came to light after The Ferret was successful in its submission of freedom of information requests of the details of the investments of Scottish universities.
The West Bank has been situated at the heart of deep controversy since Israel conquered the land in the “Six-Day War” of 1967. Israeli forces overpowered the joint powers of Egypt, Syria and Jordan and captured land including the Gaza Strip, the Old City of Jerusalem, as well as the West Bank, following Jordan’s previous victory on the territory in 1948. Whilst the Israeli government continues to defend their occupation of the land, believing it to be the ancestral land of Jewish people and therefore rightfully Israel’s, Palestinians consider the West Bank to be illegally occupied. The United Nations similarly views all settlement activity by Israel in the West Bank to be illegal.
The University of Glasgow has 5591 shares equating to £25,354 in Bank Hapoalim which has been flagged as a partner in West Bank housing projects. The University also has investments of £85,412 in Hewlett Packard (HP), which The National reports as having been accused of “provid[ing] technology for Israeli security forces who operate the West Bank”.
When asked to comment, a University of Glasgow spokesperson said: “We are committed to socially-responsible investment and we ensure that information about our investments is available on our website. We have a clear policy on ethical investment which is reviewed annually by staff and student representatives.”
The University of St Andrews has also been flagged after its shares in Puma SE, under fire for its sponsoring of the Israeli Football Association (IFA), were found to amount to £707,988. The IFA governs six teams that are presently based in internationally-outlawed West Bank settlements. Puma, however, forcefully denies any relation to football teams that operate in the West Bank. The sports brand told The National that “Puma does not support football teams in settlements nor does its Israeli distributor have branches in settlements.” St Andrews University also told the paper that it did not believe that its investments in Puma were unethical.
Speaking on the matter from Amnesty International, Naomi McAuliffe, the programme director for Scotland discussed with The National that whilst student Amnesty groups had been successful in their quests to ensure universities divested from investments in fossil fuels, the focus has now changed to shed light on the unlawful West Bank settlements.
Amnesty International also brought university investments in banks that have dealings with AirBnB into the limelight. AirBnB’s business operations in the West Bank have been highlighted by the UN, where the company profits off of properties based in the illegal territory. The University of Glasgow has £179,767 worth of shares in Barclays, and an even greater £261,382 in Goldman Sachs. Both of these banks provide financial support to AirBnB through underwriting the company.
Additionally, a recent investigation found that Glasgow University, alongside Strathclyde, have shares in Royal Dutch Shell and BP, whilst Glasgow has investments in US oil and fracking-sector company, Halliburton, despite recent promises of green investment. These findings are reported just months ahead of COP26, the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference, hosted by Glasgow this coming November.
Gerry Coutts, working both on the Time to Divest campaign and the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, told The Ferret: “Some universities in Scotland have admitted to benefiting from slavery in the past – it is time that they took a moral stance on current human rights issues.”