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Thursday, 30 December 2021

Guardian reinstates deleted comments on Archbishop Tutu's views on Palestine

 From Palestine Solidarity Campaign

All of those committed to the struggle for justice and peace in the world are mourning the death of Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He was a giant in the struggle against South African apartheid and against all forms of racial injustice. For Palestinians, his support for their struggle for justice rendered him an iconic figure.

The Guardian’s obituary failed to make any mention of his repeated criticism of Israeli policies, and his commitment to the cause of Palestinian liberation. However the concern about this omission was made more serious by the deletion of a large number of comments in response to the obituary which all highlighted Tutu’s condemnation of Israeli apartheid on the grounds that such comments “violate the Guardian’s community standards”.

The comments deleted included the following:

“It’s a pity that this fine obituary makes no mention of Desmond Tutu’s stand on Israel and Palestine. He was uniquely well placed to judge whether Israel’s policies in the OPT amounted to apartheid. The fact that he said they did made an important contribution tom the struggle for justice in Palestine” and:

“An excellent obituary that amply demonstrates the breath and depth of Desmond Tutu’s moral compass. This also extended to his staunch defence of the rights of Palestinians in the occupied territories, who he believed were suffering similar apartheid policies experienced by South Africans. In 2013 he told the Washington Post; “I wish I could keep quiet about the plight of the Palestinians. I can’t! The God who was there and showed that we should become free is the God described in the Scriptures as the same yesterday, today and forever. What’s being done to the Palestinians at checkpoints, for us, it’s the kind of thing we experienced in South Africa.” Sadly many of our contemporary political leaders are currently doing what Desmond Tutu could not do; they are keeping quiet.”

After correspondence from PSC and others, including some who had had their posts removed, the Guardian has now reposted all of the deleted comments. You can read them here. We are pleased that the Guardian, after pressure, has taken action to restore the deleted comments and privately acknowledged that they should not have been deleted. It is disappointing however that they have not chosen to publicly acknowledge their actions. We are also pleased that the Guardian has now published a piece that addresses Tutu’s support for Palestinian rights – you can read it here.

What remains of concern is the fact of the original deletions. It is difficult to view these actions away from the context of the pressure being applied by Israel and its supporters to render any labelling of its laws and policies as racist, and any call for a sanctions-led response, to be forms of antisemitism. Tutu himself was subject to this critique during his lifetime, specifically after his endorsement of the Palestinian call for BDS.

PSC organised a letter to be sent to the Guardian for publication signed by over 30 prominent figures including many who were active in the struggle against South African Apartheid. The Guardian did not publish the letter but its main ask – that the comments be restored – has now been acted upon. We publish the letter with signatories below for you to read.

PSC will be writing again to the Guardian Editor and seeking a meeting to address what action the Guardian will be taking to ensure that such issues do not emerge in the future. We will also be urging them to make space in their pages to fully address all aspect of Desmond Tutu’s legacy including his criticism of Israel’s system of apartheid and fierce and unyielding advocacy for the rights of the Palestinian people.

Tutu once said “I wish I could keep quiet about the plight of the Palestinians. I can’t!” We should not allow those who wish he had stayed silent to tarnish his memory and the lesson he gave all of us about what it means to be a consistent antiracist.


To the Editor, The Guardian

Desmond Tutu’s death is mourned by all who recognise his titanic status in the struggle against racial injustice. For Palestinians his support for their struggle for justice made him an iconic figure. Regrettably, your obituary made no mention of his repeated criticism of Israeli policies, and his commitment to Palestinian liberation.

Tutu’s early support for Palestinian civil society’s call for Boycott Divestment and Sanctions was founded upon his recognition of Israel’s practice of apartheid. It is a crucial part of his legacy.

The concern about the failure to address this in the Obituary is exacerbated by the deletion of comments, including by three of the signatories to this letter, in response to the Obituary which all highlighted these issues. The grounds given were they: “violate the Guardian’s community standards”.

It is difficult to view these deletions away from the context of the pressure being applied by Israel and its supporters to render any naming of its laws and policies as racist and any call for a sanctions-led response to be antisemitism. Tutu himself was subject to this critique after his endorsement of the Palestinian call for BDS.

We call upon the Guardian to restore the posts and for its comment pages to address Tutu’s legacy of support for Palestinian rights. Tutu once said, “I wish I could keep quiet about the plight of the Palestinians. I can’t!”. This memory is the lesson he gave us about what it means to be a consistent antiracist.

Professor Kamel Hawwash, Chair Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Ben Jamal, Director Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Chief Mandla Mandela MP (South African Parliament)
John Mcdonnell MP
Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary NEU
Jo Grady, General Secretary UCU
Chitra Karve, Chair, Action for Southern Africa
Neeshan Balton, CEO Ahmed Kathrada Foundation
Christabel Gurney, Anti-Apartheid Movement archivist
Andrew Feinstein, former ANC MP, author
Gillian Slovo, Writer
Ken Loach, Film Director
Brian Eno, Musician and Producer
David Randall, Musician
Alexei Sayle, Comedian
Ahdaf Soueif, Writer
Aimee Shalan, Chair British Palestinian Council
Sara Husseini, Director British Palestinian Council
Nadia Hijab, Author and Human Rights Activist
Mark Seddon, Director, Centre for UN Studies, University of Buckingham & former Speechwriter for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Victoria Brittain, Journalist
John Pilger, Journalist
Bruce Kent
Asad Rehman, Director War on Want
Professor Ilan Pappe, University of Exeter
Professor Nur Masalha
Dr Swee Chai Ang, Founder Medical Aid for Palestinians
Ian Williams, President of the Foreign Press Association in New York
Sir Geoffrey Bindman QC
Chris Gunness, Former UN Middle East Communications Director
Professor Richard Seaford
Professor David Mond, University of Warwick
Salman Abu Sitta, Palestine Land society
Dr Colin Green, Professor of Surgery, University College London,
Dr Derek Summerfield, Kings College London

Saturday, 4 December 2021

Ask Brent Council to divest from funds that aid the oppression of the Palestinian people


 Brent Council's Local Government Pension Fund invests money on behalf of council workers, school support workers and many others.

Few know that some of the  companies that the Fund invests in play an active part in the oppression of Palestinians by the Israeli Government.

The Brent and Harrow Palestine Solidarity campaign urge members of the fund in particular, to write to the Chair of the Pension Fund Committee, Cllr Shafique Choudhary, requesting that the Committee divest from these funds on humanitarian and ethical grounds. Model letters, trade union model motion and further information HERE.

In April 2020 Palestine Solidarity Campaign defeated the UK government in the Supreme Court, overturning guidance that advised LGPS funds against taking ethical investment decisions that contravened UK government foreign policy, restricting the ability of funds to remove investments from companies complicit in Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinian human rights.

Israel can only maintain its grave breaches of international law and Palestinian human rights because of products, equipment and services it receives from a range of companies and financial institutions. These companies either supply the Israeli military, provide technology and equipment for Israel’s infrastructure of  military occupation, or are active in illegal Israeli settlements, based on stolen Palestinian land.

LGPS funds invest in two ways. Directly by holding shares in specific companies, and indirectly through investment funds, which holds shares on their behalf.

This database produced by Palestine Solidarity Campaign lists the investments of 55 LGPS funds in companies that aid Israel’s breaches of international law. It contains a mixture of direct investments, and investments through funds.

The investments listed below are indicative of the widespread complicity of all LGPS funds. Through our research we have found that the LGPS invests over £4.4bn billions in a range of complicit companies.

We found 85% of funds we analysed invest in companies listed in the UN Human Rights Office’s list of enterprises active in Israel’s illegal settlements based on stolen Palestinian land.  Given the rigorous engagement the UN OHCHR has undertaken with these companies, this provides a starting point for  campaigning.

Companies on the UN Human Rights Office’s list of companies active in illegal Israeli settlements are marked with an asterisk. While the list is not exhaustive, it provides a good place to begin campaigning, as the UN OHCHR has undertaken rigorous engagement with these companies.




Babcock International £82,194

According to CAAT, “Babcock International is the world’s 26th largest arms-producing/military services company, with 59% of its turnover being military. Babcock applied for arms export licences to Israel in 2010 and 2012 (see Note below) and has relationships with Israeli arms companies: along with partner Lockheed Martin it has selected a consortium of Elbit Systems and KBR as preferred bidder to replace the bulk of the programme’s training aircraft (Defense News, 24.10.2014); it has collaborated with Rafael on a torpedo decoy for submarines (Torbuster), which it exhibited at the DSEi 2011 arms fair (Rafael website).”



BAE Systems  £792,952


According to CAAT, “BAE Systems is the world’s fourth largest arms producer. Its portfolio includes fighter aircraft, warships, tanks, armoured vehicles, artillery, missiles and small arms ammunition. It has military customers in over 100 countries. BAE has a workshare agreement with Lockheed Martin producing the US F-35 stealth combat aircraft. Israel, for example, took delivery of its first F-35 in 2016. According to Investigate, a project by the American Friends Service Committee, BAE has worked in cooperation with Lockheed Martin and Rafael to produce and market the naval Protector drone used to maintain the siege of Gaza along the Mediterranean coast.


Barclays  £1,009,163


Barclays is a British multinational bank and financial services company. Barclays hold approximately £1,167.6 million of investments in companies that are known to supply the Israeli military. This includes Babcock, BAE and Boeing, Cobham and Rolls Royce. More information available in War on Want’s 2017 ‘Deadly Investments’ report.



Chemring Group PLC £39,362


Chemring’s military sales account for around 90% of its total sales and it ranks 68th in the top 100 arms-producing companies in the world.” It has supplied weaponry to Israel.



G4S £93,450


G4S is a British security company that helps Israel run prisons where Palestinian political prisoners are held without trial and subjected to torture and ill-treatment. G4S is also involved in providing equipment and services to Israeli military checkpoints, illegal settlements and to military and police buildings. The international Stop G4S Campaign has cost the company contracts worth millions of dollars and compelled the Bill Gates Foundation to sell its shares in G4S. In response to international pressure, G4S has announced that it may sell its Israeli operations.



HSBC £3,912,287


HSBC invests over £830million in, and provides financial services worth up to £19billion for, companies arming Israel. These investments include up to £100million worth of shares in the company Caterpillar, who supply the Israeli army with bulldozers which are weaponised and used to demolish Palestinian communities, build Israel’s illegal settlements and apartheid infrastructure including the apartheid wall and military checkpoints. For more info: https://www.palestinecampaign.org/campaigns/stop-arming-israel/



Meggitt £116,061


Meggitt is a UK headquartered manufacturing company. It has supplied air data systems found in gunships of Apache attack helicopters. These helicopters played a prominent role in Israel’s 2006 Invasion of Southern Lebanon, which killed nearly 2000 civilians. To this day, the helicopters are used to patrol the skies of besieged Gaza, conducting strikes against Israeli targets.


QinetiQ £86,802


QinetiQ is the 6th largest UK Arms trade having been privatised from the MoD in 2001. According to CAAT they are “experts in defence, aerospace and security” (QinetiQ) including being a “world leading” supplier of military robotics”. They have received a number of export licenses to Israel. Jointly with the Israeli Aerospace Industries they manufactured SAHAR – an autonomous robotic route clearance system, which functions include environmental terrain mapping, surveillance, removal of road blocks and disposal of IEDs. In 2005 Elbit set up a joint venture company in the UK with Thales, UAV Tactical Systems Ltd (U-TacS), developing the British Army Watchkeeper WK450. On December 7, 2007, it was announced that QinetiQ will join the programme as a sub-contractor to provide testing services at ParcAberporth, West Wales. Watchkeeper drones are claimed to have been “tested on Palestinian civilians in Gaza.”



Rolls Royce £256,879


Rolls-Royce is a British manufacturer that produces military aircraft engines, naval engines and cores for nuclear submarines. Despite arms comprising only 26% of its total sales, it is still the world’s 17th largest Arms trade. In 2014, the year of Israel’s arial bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza, which killed over 2,200 civilians, nearly a quarter of them children, Rolls-Royce was granted export licenses for engines for military aircrafts to Israel.


Serco £97,476


Serco Australia Defence will provide maintenance and technical support for Rafael-produced Typhoon and Mini-Typhoon remote weapon stations and the Toplite electro-optical surveillance, observation, and targeting system


Smiths Group £286,753


According to CAAT “Smiths Group is a global technology company with five divisions: John Crane, Smiths Medical, Smiths Detection, Smiths Interconnect and Flex-Tek. Smiths Connectors is part of Smiths Interconnect and comprises Hypertac, IDI and Sabritec brands. Products include connectors used in fighting vehicles, unmanned vehicles and avionics systems.” They have applied for a number of military export lisences to Israel.


Ultra Electronics £72,717


According to CAAT “Ultra Electronics is listed by SIPRI as being the world’s 95th largest Arms trade, with military equipment comprising 61% of its sales. The company “manages a wide range of specialist capabilities, generating highly-differentiated solutions and products in the Defence & Aerospace, Security & Cyber, Transport and Energy markets.”(company website)” They work jointly with Israeli owned arms manufacturer Rafael, and have applied for numerous military export licenses to Israel.