Questions for the council

QUESTION on Apartheid: 

Tom Hunt was sent the Executive Summary of Amnesty International’s report “Israel’s Apartheid against Palestinians: A Cruel System of Domination and a Crime against Humanity.” He was asked to circulate this to Councillors.

Having had time to read and digest this report, we ask the following:

  • Does the Council now accept Amnesty International’s designation of Israel as a state practising the crime against humanity of Apartheid?
  • If not, which elements of the report does the Council reject and on what basis?

QUESTION on the ruling by the international Court of Justice

After the ruling of the International Court of Justice, it is now accepted that Israel is committing genocidal actions in Gaza and will be held to account for this in due course. Interim instructions issued by the ICJ to prevent genocidal actions by its army have been ignored by Israel. Meanwhile in the West Bank close to 8,000 people, including women and children have been placed in Administrative Detention (ie without charge or trial), hundreds have been shot dead, invasions of refugee camps by the Israeli occupation forces and attacks by violent settlers are daily occurrences.

There is a global outcry against these outrages, which is reflected in our city.

  • Having responded with alacrity to the invasion of Ukraine, issuing a statement of “unity and solidarity” with the Ukrainian people will the Council now issue a statement in which Sheffield stands in unity and solidarity with Palestinians and endorses and supports the legal processes underway to hold Israel to account at the ICJ?  

QUESTION on Barclays Bank and its relationship with the council.

In the 1980’s Sheffield declared itself an apartheid-free zone and the City Council banked with the Cooperative, an ethical choice.  Barclays Bank was a ‘pariah institution’, shunned by a generation because of its huge investments in the apartheid South African economy and its military.

In 2014 the Council switched all its banking to Barclays

In 2018 the Council adopted its ethical procurement policy. This included tests against contracting with companies guilty of Gross Misconduct, specifically breach of International Human Rights.

In March 2022 environmental activists urged the Council not to renew its contract with Barclays, as the biggest European investor in fossil fuels.

Nevertheless, the Council went ahead and renewed its contract with Barclays in September 2022.

Once again Barclays Bank is outstanding as a supporter of apartheid, now in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories.  The bank holds over £1 billion in shares in, and provides over £3 billion in loans and underwriting to, 9 companies whose weapons, components, and military technology are being used by Israel in its attacks on Palestinians.

This includes General Dynamics, which produces the gun systems that arm the fighter jets used by Israel to bombard Gaza, and Elbit Systems, which produces armoured drones, munitions and artillery weapons being used now by the Israeli military in both Gaza and the West Bank.

The historic ruling at the International Court of Justice at The Hague on 26th January 2024 means Israel is on trial for genocide and third-party states are liable if they are complicit in or do not act to prevent genocide. Specifically, the Genocide Convention has been incorporated into UK law by the International Criminal Court Act of 2001. Barclays, by providing investment and financial services to these arms companies is liable for supporting acts of genocide and the City Council, by banking with Barclays, is supporting a complicit company.

My question to the Chief Executive: Can you give a verbal report now of the due diligence carried out according to the tests and measures against Gross Misconduct in the Council’s ethical procurement policy before the decision was made to renew the Council’s banking contract with Barclays in 2022?

Will the Council undertake to review its contractual commitment to Barclays, look at alternative banking options, and in the meantime arrange a meeting with Barclays to explain it will be necessary to change in the light of legal and moral obligations?

QUESTION on divesting from Israel in South Yorkshire pensions

Sheffield Council could be included in this complicity. Sheffield is part of South Yorkshire Pension Authority and the Border to Coast Pension Pension Partnership. Sheffield Council is indirectly investing in arms companies that are selling weapons to Israel, currently being used to kill thousands upon thousands of Palestinians, which the ICJ is investigating as the crime of genocide. These investments include the following companies: Airbus, BAE systems,Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, Rolls Royce and other companies, all of which are involved in making military weapons such as fighter jets, bombs and drones, and selling them to Israel to use against the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza, and also in the West Bank. South Yorkshire Pension Authority also invests in Barclays and HSBC, banks that fund these companies in the production of weapons.

These investments are potentially making Sheffield Council complicit in war crimes and genocide. Pension holders have repeatedly requested that Sheffield seeks ways to divest from these companies.

As Sheffield Council is part of wider pension arrangements involving a number of other local authorities, we are fully aware that Sheffield Council is unable to divest from these companies without achieving wider agreement with these other authorities. 

Will Sheffield make a statement about these investments and possible complicity in war crimes and take it forward to the South Yorkshire Pension Authority and the Border to Coast Pension Partnership?

What other steps will Sheffield Council take to work towards SYPA and Borders to Coast reducing their potential complicity in war crimes against the Palestinian people?