Protesters call on council to ‘divest’ pension fund from companies selling weapons to Israel

Pro-Palestine campaigners at a protest outside Waltham Forest Town Hall last week said the council was ‘complicit in genocide’, reports Marco Marcelline

At least 100 people stood outside Waltham Forest Town Hall on Thursday (14th March). Credit: Hil Aked

Over 100 people staged a protest on Thursday (14th March) outside Waltham Forest Town Hall to call on the council to divest from companies linked to illegal Israeli settlements and the supply of weapons to Israel.

During the protest, speakers highlighted the deaths of young children and teenagers in Gaza who were killed by Israeli air strikes. Attendees held signs calling for divestment and an immediate ceasefire while chanting, “attention, attention, blood on your pension”.

Pointing to the high number of dead civilians in Gaza, Leyton resident Zad said she attended the protest on Thursday as a way to “stand up and say no” to the council’s pension fund investments.

Amid loud chants around her, she said: “That money does not need to go there; that pension fund could be invested in literally anything else. They could invest in green energy for example. I don’t know that much about investing but one thing that I do know is that Waltham Forest Council should not be funding a genocide.”

Peter Ashan, an anti-racist campaigner who leads Black history walks around the borough was also present at the protest. He said he was there because he wanted to “show solidarity with the people of Waltham Forest who are standing against Israeli apartheid”. 

Peter continued: “Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) is an absolutely crucial and peaceful way of campaigning against Israeli apartheid. If you look at the sufragette movement, boycotting was important. To defeat the transatlantic slave trade, people boycotted slave-produced sugar. And therefore it’s absolutely important that we’re here this evening to lobby for the council to divest its pension funds away from the Israeli apartheid state.”

Credit: Hil Aked

Waltham Forest Pension Fund is a member of the London Collective Investment Vehicle (LCIV), a pooled fund which manages the pension funds for all 32 London boroughs.

A Freedom of Information (FOI) request shared with the Echo shows that at least £6.63million of the Waltham Forest pension fund is being passively invested via the LCIV in companies that send weapons to Israel or operate in or are linked to illegal Israeli settlements.

£244,768 is being invested in Caterpillar, a company which sells bulldozers to the Israel Defence Force (IDF) that are then used on Palestinian homes in the occupied territories.

Meanwhile, £62,647 and £69,239 are being invested in the Israeli banks Leumi and Hapoalim. Both banks have been named on a United Nations list of 112 companies that are helping to further illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem and in the occupied Golan Heights. In 2021, Norway’s largest pension fund KLP said it would divest from banks Leumi and Hapoalim due to the UN report.

This story is published by Waltham Forest Echo, Waltham Forest's free monthly newspaper and free news website. We are a not-for-profit publication, published by a small social enterprise. We have no rich backers and rely on the support of our readers. Donate or become a supporter.

A petition, supported by Waltham Forest for a Free Palestine, the Waltham Forest Palestine Solidarity Campaign (WFPSC), Unite Community, as well as Waltham Forest Council of Mosques, has so far attracted over 1,100 signatures. 

Credit: Hil Aked

In a letter addressed to the Waltham Forest pension committee, campaigners wrote: “Until there is not one single pound of investment in Israeli occupation, we will campaign for an end to Waltham Forest Council’s complicity.”

In its Investment Strategy Statement (ISS), published in 2020, the council lists “environmental issues”, “human rights”, and “employment standards” as three areas of concern. In 2022, Waltham Forest became the first council to divest from fossil fuel investments.

A council spokesperson said: “The pension fund committee is very concerned about any exposure the fund has to companies accused of human rights violations anywhere in the world. Most of the council’s pension fund is overseen by two investment managers, the LCIV and the Legal and General Investment Manager (LGIM). We are in regular contact with both to ensure they understand our position. None of the funds we directly manage are invested with companies accused of complicity.

“Our investors must consider a range of environmental, social, and human rights issues when making investment decisions and these can have an impact on the future performance of the pension fund. Investment decisions need to ensure that the fund can pay pension benefits to its members when they are due.

In considering the fund performance we also cannot ignore the fact that some companies linked to human rights violations are the target of worldwide boycotts and are likely to become risky investments, and we must therefore act to safeguard our investments for the people who rely on the pension fund.” 

Since the Hamas attacks on southern Israel on 7th October that left 1,200 people, including 764 civilians, dead, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) has killed 31,819 Gazans.

The IDF says it is only targeting Hamas and Palestinian Jihad militants, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saying the army is the “most moral” in the world. But, according to the Israeli paper Haaretz, civilians made up 61% of deaths in the first three weeks of Israel’s operation in Gaza, and the majority of casualties continue to be women and children.

International concern at the scale of civilian death in the Strip is growing. According to Oxfam, the number of average deaths per day in Gaza is higher than any recent major armed conflict including Syria, Sudan, Iraq, and Ukraine. This week, lawmakers in Canada passed a non-binding resolution that calls for a stop to the continued exports of arms to Israel. 

The Echo needs you. No matter how small, your support makes a difference

Waltham Forest Echo is a community newspaper that holds authority to account, highlights inequality, promotes good causes, and provides a platform for local people. We do real local news with no paywalls, free to read for all. We can only do this with the continued support of our readers. If you can afford to, please consider supporting us with a small monthly, yearly or one-off contribution.

Monthly direct debit 

Annual direct debit

£5 per month supporters get a digital copy of each month’s paper before anyone else, £10 per month supporters get a digital copy of each month’s paper before anyone else and a print copy posted to them each month.  £50 annual supporters get a digital copy of each month's paper before anyone else.

Donate now with Pay Pal

More information on supporting us monthly or annually 

More Information about donations