Pro-Palestinian divestment, a symbolic weapon that attacks real dollars

Pro-Palestinian divestment, a symbolic weapon that attacks real dollars
Pro-Palestinian divestment, a symbolic weapon that attacks real dollars

With money often comes power. This is why pro-Palestinian activists are pressuring universities to sell their investments in companies operating in Israel, many of which supply military equipment.

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Some universities manage a lot of money. The McGill Endowment Fund holds more than $2 billion while the Université de Montréal Pension Fund has assets of nearly $5 billion.

On its website, the McGill endowment fund publishes the list of its investments, which includes Quebec companies such as Couche-Tard and Molson.

There are also companies like Lockheed Martin, which openly displays its links with Israel, to which it supplies military equipment.

By convincing the institution to renounce its investments linked to Israel, “we could have a concrete impact in arming this genocidal army,” Ari Nahman, spokesperson for Independent Jewish Voices at the Israeli camp, said this week. McGill University.

“The financial or economic impact [d’un désinvestissement] is difficult to quantify,” said Darlene Himick, professor of accounting at the University of Ottawa.

Darlene Himick

Photo University of Ottawa

In some cases, the real benefits of these campaigns are more political than financial, especially when they “percolate” to the elected officials of various governments, explains Jean-Philippe Warren, professor of sociology at Concordia University.


Regardless, universities are walking on eggshells when asked whether they would consider giving up placements that might be associated with Israel.

“Universities do not want to alienate any clientele: neither their students, nor their professors, nor their donors,” underlined Jean-Philippe Warren, professor of sociology at Concordia University.

“We are not commenting on this at this time out of respect for the ongoing discussions,” McGill told the Newspaper.

External firms

For its part, the University of Montreal wanted to point out that it mainly invests in funds managed by external firms, a common practice.

“The University of Montreal therefore does not select the assets it holds one by one,” said a spokesperson, Geneviève O’Meara.

However, universities cannot shirk their social responsibilities.

“It is up to them to make the final decision regarding their investments,” recalled Himik.

“There has always been a tension between the financial aspects of these funds and the moral and ethical issues,” she added.

Some investments decried by the demonstrators

Providing planes or drones to Israel, installing a factory in Israeli settlements: McGill University is investing in several companies accused by activists of harming the Palestinian people. Here are some examples taken from the institution’s website.

Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin has been supplying planes to the Israeli army since the 1970s, we can read on the American company’s website. As of March 31, McGill held more than $535,000 of shares in this company. Last month, protesters demonstrated outside a Lockheed Martin facility in California in connection with the Israel-Hamas war.


McGill owns $1.4 million worth of shares in the British company BAE Systems. In November, union members protested outside a BAE site in Rochester, claiming the factory makes aviation components used to bomb Gaza.


McGill owns $1.3 million in the multinational Thales, specializing in electronics for aerospace and defense. Last March, activists blocked access to one of its factories in Belgium, blaming the sending of drones used in Gaza.


McGill owns $2.2 million in shares in Airbus, which supplies Israel with helicopters, notably used to patrol the coastline of the Gaza Strip.


McGill owns $2 million in shares of the French company Safran, which has entered into several partnerships with Israeli arms companies. McGill activists also accuse him of providing equipment to the Israeli police, who would use it in Palestinian territory.


McGill owns $1.2 million in L’Oréal shares. Activists criticize the French cosmetics giant for having a factory in Migdal HaEmek, an Israeli town built on the site of the former Palestinian village of Al-Mujaydil.

-With BBC, RTBF, Times of Israel and the Multinational Observatory



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