British Banks – No More Profits from War!

42,000 signatures delivered to M&S to mark the Nakba.

On Saturday 19th May 2012, supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! and other activists held a day of protest in Newcastle city centre against banks and businesses to expose their role in the continued domination and exploitation of the Middle-East and Africa- from Syria, to Somalia, and Palestine – and their complicity in the government’s savage austerity measures being forced upon the British working classes. The protest was also to commemorate the 64th anniversary of the Nakba.

Targets included branches of Barclays, Lloyds TSB, HSBC, Halifax, Natwest and Marks and Spencer – many of which were forced to close their doors. Activists went from bank to bank along the high street and used a megaphone, banners, placards and leaflets to put forward a message of ‘No to War! No to Austerity! Socialism is the Alternative!’ A lot of support was given from people passing by, some people joining in with the chanting, one person expressed their outrage at the banks:

“They continue to make obscene amounts of profits and the managers award themselves million pound bonuses while more and more working class people are being forced out of work and out of their homes at the demand of the banks.”

Activists entered Marks and Spencer on Northumberland Street to deliver 42,000 signatures to the manager. These petitions call for a boycott of the store until it breaks its longstanding financial and political support for the Zionist state of Israel, which continues to occupy Palestinian land, and oppress the Palestinian people.

Nakba Day marks, when on 15th May 1948, Zionist militias forced 750,000 Palestinians from their homes and the state of Israel was established. Palestinian civil society groups called for a complete boycott of Israeli goods in 2007 as a protest against continuing occupation, apartheid, and breaches of international law. Marks and Spencer's remains the biggest British corporate sponsor of Israel, with trade amounting $233 million per year. They participate in the British-Israeli Chamber of Commerce, pushing for closer trading relations between the countries. Huge amounts of M&S fresh produce is sourced in Israel, including dates, lychees, herbs, and potatoes. Israeli textile company Delta Galil boasts that it outfits 1 in 3 British men through M&S.

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! supporters have regularly picketed Marks and Spencer's on Newcastle's Northumberland Street for the last 6 years, and the huge level of support on the streets for the Palestinian struggle, and against British support for Israel, was demonstrated by the huge stack of petition sheets ready to hand in. However the manager refused to collect them, and without any warning security guards snatched a phone off one activist who was filming the demonstration, and they then called the police to have them evicted. This shows the complete contempt Your M&S has for the voices of tens of thousands of people in Newcastle and the continued struggle of the Palestinian people. (Pickets of M&S have been ongoing regularly over the last ten years in towns and cities across the country – and once every week for ten years by FRFI at the flagship store on Oxford Street in London). 

Throughout the day the crimes of the British banks were read out, including their support for Zionist Israel and their attacks on Socialist Cuba:

Barclays – is the largest global investor in the arms trade and is the market maker for arms company ITT Exelis.

Barclays is also the only high street bank with significant direct investments in Israeli companies and it holds shares in Unilever, the owner of Beigel and Beigel, who run a manufacturing plant in the Barkan settlement industrial zone in the occupied West Bank.

The bank is also attempting to move in to the Israeli High Street. Barclays has an Israeli HQ and, in 2011, applied to operate branches in Israel. If it is successful Barclays will, like all banks operating in Israel, provide loans to settlers and settler industries.

Lloyds TSB – bailed out to the tune of £5.5 bn (£17 bn when merged with HBOS).

One Lloyds TSB director, Sir David Manning, is an ex-ambassador to both Israel and the USA and was Foreign Policy Adviser to Tony Blair during the planning for the invasion of Iraq.

Lloyds TSB Chairman, Sir Victor Blank, is a governor of Tel Aviv University, Chair of UJS/Hillel, a member of the Advisory Board of the United Jewish Israel Appeal and is involved in Labour Friends of Israel.  UJS/Hillel assists members of the pro-Israel Union of Jewish Students, a group that works to silence Palestinian voices on British campuses. 

In 2004, the Zionist-led Board of Deputies of British Jews, staunch defenders of Israeli crimes, accused the charity Interpal of involvement in ‘terrorism’, for which smear they had to later pay damages. Lloyds TSB has demanded that the Islamic Bank of Britain cease all dealings with the registered charity.  By hitting Interpal’s banking facilities, Lloyds TSB aims to support Israel by shutting off the trickle of aid that Interpal has managed to get into occupied Palestine over the years of Israel’s brutal siege.

No US bank can provide credit to Cuba, and now, third countries are being obstructed from this trade. There is constant international pressure from the US government, for example in 2008, under this pressure, Lloyds TSB demanded their customers to cease all financial connections with Cuba.  Lloyds TSB wrote to its business customers who deal with Cuba telling them they can no longer use their accounts to trade with Cuba. The letter states ‘I must advise you to find alternative ways of making payments to your suppliers with Cuban connections.’

HSBC - has dodged an estimated £2 billion of tax since 1993 using complicated off-shore schemes to transfer profits to shareholders without paying tax in the UK. It has done this with the complicity of successive British governments. Although HSBC was not bailed out directly during the global financial crisis, the bank depended on the cash injected into the financial system as a whole for its survival, and received more than $3.5 billion from the US government bailout of AIG via its subsidiary HSBC Bank USA. HSBC is a longstanding and major player in British finance capital. As such, it represents a major part of the ruling class interests which are being served by the government’s cuts.

HSBC is involved as underwriter in financing the Israeli state budget by helping the Israeli government to issue bonds on the international capital markets. Such funds are used to support prohibited activities, such as the establishment of settlements in occupied territory and their associated infrastructure in breach of Israel’s obligations under international law.

Despite this support for Zionist Israel HSBC capitulate to the US blockade of Socialist Cuba. In 2008 a spokesman for HSBC referred to a section of the company's annual report, which quotes the US Patriot Act, and states that: "The US state department has designated certain countries (Cuba, Iran, North Korea, Sudan and Syria) as state sponsors of terrorism, and US law generally prohibits US persons from doing business with such countries. HSBC is aware of initiatives by governmental entities and institutions in the US to adopt rules, regulations or policies prohibiting transactions with, or investments in entities doing business with such countries." The bank was not prepared to comment further.

British Banks – No More Profits from War! End British support for Israel! Freedom for Palestine!