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Campaigners demand Haringey Council ‘divest’ pension fund from firms supplying Israeli weapons

Pro-Palestine groups addressed a pensions committee meeting with some councillors also expressing anger at the fund’s investments, reports Olivia Opara

The pro-Palestine protest outside George Meehan House on Tuesday
The pro-Palestine protest outside George Meehan House on Tuesday

Campaigners have staged a protest demanding Haringey Council divest from pension fund investments linked to illegal Israeli settlements and the supply of weapons to Israel.

The protest took place on Tuesday (30th) to coincide with a pensions committee board meeting in Wood Green and called on councillors to support the divestment of funds invested in companies included on a UN list of “companies active in illegal Israeli settlements” as well as those supplying weapons to Israel.

Speaking at the protest held at George Meehan House were representatives of Palestinian Youth Movement, Sisters Uncut, Palestine Action, BDS Campaign, Tribe Named Athari and Independent Socialists councillor Lotte Collett.

“We can put a man on the moon, we can certainly solve an issue like this,” said Cllr Collett. “It is a matter of Haringey pensions committee lobbying other local authorities so that there is a consensus to divest this element of the pension fund.”

The Local Government Pension Scheme (LGPS) is a statutory scheme for local authority employees. As of September 2022, Haringey Pension Fund manages approximately £1.67bn in assets, with about £768m invested across multiple index funds – including the MSCI World Low Carbon Target Index, through which the fund has been found to be investing “passively” in companies supplying weapons and military technology to Israel such as Caterpillar, Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

Furthermore, the fund has been investing in companies listed by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights as being active in Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank, as well as in Elbit Systems, the largest Israeli weapons manufacturer that has been condemned for human rights abuses, including allegations it produces cluster munitions – although the company denies this.

Data shared with HCP by Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) reveals that “£80k of Haringey Pension Fund is invested in Elbit Systems”.

The current war in Gaza began on 7th October after Hamas launched a violent attack on Israel, killing around 1,200 people and taking hundreds hostage, but there has been growing international condemnation of the Israeli government’s response – with some 26,000 Palestinians killed in Gaza to date.

Last week, a ruling by the International Court of Justice warned the Israeli government to “take all measures within its power to prevent and punish the direct and public incitement to commit genocide in relation to members of the Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip”.

In a deputation letter to Haringey Council’s pensions committee, residents demanded the council use “every possible channel” to issue a statement in support of an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza. The letter added: “We say it is possible to stand against genocide, fight antisemitism and Islamaphobia all at once. We refuse to conflate the state of Israel with our Jewish neighbours – we say this as an act of deep solidarity.”

During the meeting, Independent Socialists councillor Mark Blake – who like Cllr Collett resigned from the Haringey Labour group last year – told the committee he was “shocked” to learn that LGPS has investments “complicit in Israel’s grave breaches of international law and Palestinian rights”.

Cllr Blake said: “I am particularly horrified to discover that our pension fund is implicated in the genocide of the Palestinain people through a fund that was chosen as part of our environmental strategy.”

One resident who attended the meeting added: “We are so ashamed as residents of Haringey to know that the money of our borough has been playing a role in the ongoing genocide in Gaza and in many other atrocities across the world. This is public money and we have the right to know how it is invested.”

In response, Labour councillor Ahmed Mahbub, the chair of the committee, said: “As we have said in today’s meeting, this is something that we are planning to look into, but the pension fund is heavily restricted, as we cannot even employ our own auditor. [However], we are looking to find ways to see if we can make the fund fit Haringey’s values.”

Cllr Mahub added that there are “no action plans” that the council could take at the moment and that this is something that it “has to understand more fully”.

Labour councillor Matt White also stressed the need for the committee to “look at the ethical sides” of its pension fund and that the council is investing in these companies “passively and indirectly” through the LGPS which is “a very big challenge”.