Did BDS actually claim its first victory at a UK university? The facts prove otherwise.
The anti-Israel BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement declared victory after the University of Leeds last month made the decision to stop investing in several companies linked to Israel–a move that BDS portrayed as a decision to divest from three companies “complicit in the violation of Palestinian human rights.” The three companies are Airbus, United Technologies and Keyence Corporation.
A fourth company, HSBC, is also reportedly under review by the university’s investment managers for its loans to Elbit Systems, Caterpillar and BAE Systems, all of which sell weapons and military equipment to Israel.
BDS claimed that the supposed “divestment” was a result of student action.
Co-President of the Leeds Palestine Solidarity Group (PSG) Evie Russell-Cohen claimed that “it’s clear that the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions is being heard in the UK. Students are no longer willing to see their tuition fees funding weapons companies which profit from the killing of Palestinians. This is a massive success, but we hope that it will only be the beginning of a wave change across UK Universities.”
It’s the Environment, Stupid
However, the facts tell a different story.
In reality, the university’s decision to stop investing in these companies is due to its choice to invest in a more “climate active strategy,” and was not the product of BDS pressure.
The move was motivated by environmental concerns, the university unequivocally stated, and a desire to try to reduce the institution’s carbon footprint.
A university spokesperson for Leeds U told The Algemeiner last week that it had only become aware of PSG’s open letter on October 25, after the university had already withdrawn its holdings from three of the four targeted companies.
“The University adopted a climate active strategy in May this year,” the spokesperson said. “Implementation of that strategy triggered the sale on 15 October of the university’s indirect holdings in Airbus, United Technologies and Keyence.”