Hastings and Rye Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Tell East Sussex Pension Fund: IT'S TIME TO DIVEST

Did you know that East Sussex Pension Fund has over £111,005,000 invested in companies complicit in Israel's war crimes? Source

That's why we're demanding East Sussex Pension Fund [ESPF] divest from companies that support the occupation and break international law - and our campaign is gaining momentum.

In June we asked you to write to the County Council requesting ESPF divest from companies complicit in Israel's abuses of Palestinian Human Rights and many of you did, forcing a response from the Chair of the Pension Committee. He said that if they wished, the Fund had the right to disinvest or boycott on non-financial grounds.

So now we need to encourage them to do just that!

Please, as a matter of urgency, send an email to the County Council for the next Full Council meeting, being held virtually on Tuesday 13 October - we have prepared a draft email you can copy and paste into the body of your email.

The Council must respond to these questions and include both your question and its response in its minutes.

The deadline for you to email your question is 4pm on Monday 5 October.


Send an email to
democratic.services@eastsussex.gov.uk with the following subject line and text (feel free to amend and personalise as you see fit):

Subject line: 'Question for the 13 October 2020 Full Council meeting.'

Text: 'Please find below my question for the Full Council meeting on 13 October 2020:'


Here is a question that can be asked. Feel free to amend or to send any question of your choice that you feel will influence the committee:

Dear Chair
I am very concerned to see research carried out by the PSC (Palestine Solidarity Campaign) has shown that the East Sussex Pension Fund [ESPF] has approximately £111 million invested in 63 companies complicit in Israel's abuses of Palestinian human rights and in violation of international law.

These violations of human rights and international law include the illegal military occupation and settlement of Palestinian land in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, as affirmed by the UN Security Council, and the UK government; the inhumane land, sea and air blockade on Gaza, deemed a flagrant violation of international human rights and humanitarian law by UN experts; and the denial of the fundamental human right of dispossessed Palestinian refugees to return to the land from which they, or their family members, were expelled, in violation of UN Resolution 194.

Specifically, I am extremely concerned that the ESPF has over £3 million invested in 11 companies which are on the United Nations list of companies involved in Israel's illegal settlement economy. Israel's settlements on occupied land are illegal under international law and the International Criminal Court prosecutor is investigating their construction as a war crime. Our own Foreign and Commonwealth Office has spoken out against economic involvement in the settlements: 'There are clear risks related to economic and financial activities in the settlements and we do not encourage or offer support to such activity.'

These 11 companies operating and profiting from stolen land are Bank Hapoalim, Paz Oil Company, Israel Discount Bank, Bezeq, Booking.com, Expedia, General Mills, Delek, Mizrahi Tefahot Bank, First International Bank and Mercantile Discount Bank Ltd.

In addition, the Pension Fund has £25,295 invested in Elbit Systems. Elbit is one of Israel's biggest arms manufacturers and appears on most blacklists prepared by 'socially responsible' investment research companies. The firm constructs the militarised drones used by Israel to bombard Palestinian civilians to death during its successive wars against the population of the Gaza Strip. They also produce the surveillance drones that the Israeli army uses during military operations of house arrests in the occupied West Bank. Norwegian state pension fund, Danish bank Danske Bank, Dutch pension giant ABP, the Swedish AP pension fund and Folksam (Sweden) have all divested from Elbit, as has Europe's largest bank HSBC.

When this issue was last put before the Council by members of the public in July 2020 the Chair of the Pension Committee did not appear to engage directly with the issue. He gave a general answer:
"The Fund continues to have the right, should it wish, to disinvest or boycott on non-financial grounds provided it meets the requirements of the Investment guidance."
"The Fund embraces the United Nations Principles of Responsible Investment and the UK Stewardship Code."
However, the UN Guiding Principles provides a clear statement on the responsibilities that businesses and investors should have in regard to human rights abuses. How can a pension fund that claims to embrace the UN Guiding Principles hold companies in its portfolio that the United Nations has highlighted as companies in breach of international law?

Instead of a general answer about what is possible I would like to know what measures the ESPF intends to take to divest from these specific companies I have raised concerns about, and when? I am aware these may be indirect investments through funds but there are ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) screened funds that don't hold any of these companies. Direct or indirect, the responsibility is the same. Is it not time for ESPF to divest from companies in flagrant breach of international law? Will the issue be put before the Pension Committee for discussion on Monday 30 November? Also, do you intend to implement screening and due diligence procedures to ensure that scheme members' money is not used to support the violation of international law in future. If so, when?

Thank you for your time. While I appreciate that ESPF members deserve decent pensions it should not be at the expense of some of the most oppressed and vulnerable people in the world.
Yours Sincerely,


  • Please BCC your email to info@hastingspalestinecampaign.org so that we know that you've sent it.
  • They will only accept your question if you include your address and phone number, but they won't include these in their minutes.


    UN's list of companies profiting from Israeli war crimes

    The 63 complicit companies include 11 published on the UN list of companies involved in Israel's illegal settlement economy. The publication of this list is a very significant step in pinpointing companies that pension schemes need to divest from. Bruno Stagno of Human Rights Watch: "The long-awaited release of the UN settlement business database should put all companies on notice: To do business with illegal settlements is to aid in the commission of war crimes."

    The companies on the UN list that the ESPF has shares in are:
  • Bank Hapoalim (£116,244). Israel's largest bank and is partnered with at least three known construction projects in Israel's illegal settlements.
  • Paz Oil Company (£171,305). The company has 17 filling stations in the occupied Palestinian territory and annexed Syrian Golan Heights. Paz Aviation Services, a fully owned subsidiary of the company, has a Ministry of Defense tender for outsourcing refuelling services in seven air force bases.
  • Israel Discount Bank (£84,598). The company provides financial support for construction projects in the occupied Palestinian territory. This includes construction projects in the west of Gilo settlement neighborhood in occupied East Jerusalem and in the south of Neve Ya'akov settlement neighborhood in East Jerusalem.
  • Bezeq, the Israel Telecommunication company. (£58,886). The company provides telecommunication services to all Israeli settlements, army bases and checkpoints in the occupied West Bank and to Israeli settlements in the annexed Syrian Golan Heights.
  • Booking.com (£1,262,687). US based, headquartered in Amsterdam. Listings on Booking.com's website are in the illegal settlements in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Booking.com failed to inform consumers of the settlements' illegal status under international law.
  • Expedia (£258,018). Expedia is a US online travel shopping company. It lists tourist accommodation, activities and attractions in settlements or run by settlers in the Occupied Palestine Territories, including East Jerusalem.
  • General Mills (£730,907). A US-based food company, owns a bakery that is located in the Atarot industrial zone in the occupied West Bank.
  • Delek (£79,815). Delek is an Israeli energy and infrastructure conglomerate. It owns petrol stations across the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem and in the Syrian Golan Heights. Delek has provided refuelling services to the Israeli Ministry of Defense and the Israeli army and has signed an agreement with the Israeli Ministry of Public Security and the Israeli police for the provision of fuel for its naval patrol.
  • Mizrahi Tefahot Bank (£36,402). The bank finances construction projects in the occupied territories and provides loans and financial services to local authorities of settlements and Israeli businesses operating in the occupied territories.
  • First International Bank (£6,170). The bank finances housing and infrastructure projects in the settlements. It also provides loans to local authorities in the settlements and to Israeli businesses operating in the occupied territories.
  • Mercantile Discount Bank Ltd (£248,142). The bank finances construction projects in the occupied territories. It also provides loans to regional councils of settlements.
  • In addition to these companies the ESPF has shares worth £25,295 in Elbit Systems. This company is one of Israel's biggest arms manufacturers. See details above.

    We hope to see ESPF divesting from all 63 companies complicit in Israel's crimes. As a start, the ESPF should divest from these 12 companies.

    2 October 2020.

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