Scotiabank, one of Canada’s largest banks, is facing criticism from human rights groups over its investment in Elbit Systems, an Israeli weapons manufacturer that has been linked to violations of international law in Palestine.
According to a report by The Intercept, Scotiabank holds the largest foreign share of Elbit Systems, estimated to be about $500 million. Elbit Systems is Israel’s premier defense contractor, producing drones, missiles, surveillance systems, and other military equipment that are used by the Israeli army in its occupation of Palestinian territories.
At a shareholder meeting, a representative of the ethical investing activist group Eko delivered a petition on behalf of 12,000 signatories calling on Scotiabank to divest from Elbit Systems. The petition cited the company’s involvement in human rights abuses, such as providing technology for Israel’s illegal separation wall, supplying weapons that have caused civilian casualties in Gaza, and profiting from Israeli settlements that are considered illegal under international law.
The representative of Scotiabank at the meeting did not address the concerns raised by the petition, but said that all fund decisions are driven by “the interests of shareholders”.
The investment in Elbit Systems comes through Scotiabank’s asset management arm, 1832 Asset Management, and a particular subdivision known as Dynamic Funds, several of whose funds are run by a fund manager and executive named David Fingold. Fingold is a prolific investor in controversial Israeli firms, including Mizrahi-Tefahot Bank and Strauss Group, which are also on a United Nations list of companies that benefit from Israeli settlements.
Scotiabank’s stake in Elbit Systems is much larger than that of its two main domestic competitors, TD Bank and Royal Bank of Canada, which hold around $3 million in shares, combined, in the company.
Human rights groups have urged Scotiabank to follow the example of other financial institutions that have divested from Elbit Systems or other Israeli companies involved in the occupation, such as AXA, HSBC, Danske Bank, and Nordea. They have also called on the Canadian government to stop providing tax incentives for investments in companies that violate human rights.