On Wednesday 24 January, activists occupied a council building in Wales. It was over the council’s investments in arms companies that are complicit in Israel‘s ongoing genocide in Gaza. And thanks to one independent media outlet we know just how much the council has been funnelling into the industry.
Wales: people say no to Gwent investing in genocide
In what Newport Palestine Solidarity Campaign called a “bold and impactful move”, activists occupied the Civic Centre in Pontypool, raising their voices against the Gwent Councils’ controversial pension fund investments.
The Greater Gwent pension fund, in which all five Councils in Gwent are stakeholders, is under scrutiny for its staggering £110m investments in companies linked to human rights abuses against the Palestinian people.
Independent media outlet voice.wales first reported on this in 2023. It dug into figures from the Palestine Solidarity campaign. voice.wales said overall:
Welsh council pension funds have a combined total of more than £161m invested in companies that supply the Israeli military.
Among the top beneficiaries, receiving more than £32m each, were General Electric and BAE Systems. The arms giants have supplied the IDF with weapons systems, engines and other components for the regime’s fighter jets, military helicopters and missile ships.
Welsh pension funds own £626,799 in shares of French firm Thales and Israeli military contractor Elbit, which together produce surveillance and attack drones for the IDF. Their Watchkeeper drones – some made in Aberporth, Ceredigion – have also been used by the UK Government to surveil refugees crossing the English Channel.
Elbit: the most despicable of companies
This revelation comes to light as these investments are found to directly contravene a UN-sanctioned list of companies profiting from illegal settlements on stolen Palestinian land. Activists say the involvement of the pension fund with such entities demands immediate attention and action from both councillors and councils.
The pension fund’s portfolio includes investments in Elbit Systems, Israel’s largest arms company.
According to Human Rights Watch, Elbit’s weapons have been implicated in war crimes in Gaza. Experts, Holocaust scholars, UN officials, and NGOs have labeled Israel’s actions in Gaza as genocide, prompting South Africa to initiate legal proceedings in the International Court of Justice against Israel for breaching the Genocide Convention.
Of particular concern is Elbit’s association with the production of prohibited weapons, including weaponised white phosphorus and cluster bombs, raising grave ethical concerns that demand urgent resolution.
Pension funds: complicit in war crimes
Joe Logan from Abergavenny took part in the occupation. They said:
I am a pensioner with the Greater Gwent Council’s pension fund. I see in their publicity that they aim to invest our money ethically. So I was horrified to find that they are allowing our pension funds to be invested in arms manufacturers like Elbit. Elbit is guilty of supplying the Israeli army with weaponry to use against Palestinian civilians; men, women, and a huge number of children and babies.
It is a genocidal and cruel massacre of innocents, making my pension fund complicit in these war crimes. They must divest now in the war industry as they must in the fossil fuel industry, for all our futures.
Hillary Brown from Newport was also there. She said:
I’m shocked and horrified that Gwent Councils are investing our pensions in war crimes and genocide. I have been heartbroken to see videos daily of the atrocities in Gaza. Councillors need to act now to stop these investments. We all want to have a good pension, but it shouldn’t be at a cost to the most defenceless and vulnerable people in the world.
Nor should 10,000 children have to die in Gaza, with Gwent pension members as shareholders of this carnage.
Featured image via Newport Palestine Solidarity Campaign