Push to withdraw arms-linked pensions

Quakers amongst hundreds of protestors at BAE Systems in Lancashire

'BAE Systems, based at Samlesbury, is one of "two principle industrial partners" providing F-35 warplanes which are being used in bombing Gaza.' | Photo: Protest at Samlesbury

Lancaster City councillors are calling on the Lancashire County Pension Fund to withdraw £8 million of investments made in companies that ork in areas of Palestine illegally occupied by the Israeli government. The move follows demonstrations last month when hundreds of protestors – including Quakers – descended on BAE Systems in Lancashire criticising its connections to the Israeli military.

Councillors Jack O’Dwyer-Henry, Gina Dowding and Kevin Frea called for two major Lancashire pension funds to remove these investments following the Israeli-Palestine conflict that has escalated in recent months. Jack O’Dwyer-Henry later brought forward a motion backing the Palestinian-led Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) movement.

According to research by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the pension fund invests in three companies that conduct business in alleged illegal Israeli settlements in Palestine. These are General Mills, Booking.com, and Bank Hapoalim BM, with investment worth a combined £8.67 million.

Lancashire peace campaigners have increasingly put private sector involvement in the conflict under the spotlight in recent months. In May, the Israeli military confirmed that BAE Systems, based at Samlesbury, is one of ‘two principle industrial partners’ providing F-35 warplanes which are being used in bombing Gaza. Friends were among hundreds of people who gathered for a funeral procession outside the gates of BAE Systems with pictures of deceased children and small coffins to remember more than sixty children recently killed. The event on 4 June organised by the Lancashire Peace Forum followed several protests in East Lancashire including a rally in Blackburn on 11 May, and a ‘go-slow’ protest on 20 May, which brought traffic in the town to a standstill. According to Campaign Against the Arms Trade (CAAT), BAE Systems has played a major role in producing the F-35 stealth combat aircraft which has been used in the bombing campaign. The firm’s own website claims that the Lancashire plants are essential to the construction of F-35s.

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