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BDS victory as University of Leeds divests from Israel-linked firms

The University of Leeds ceased its dealings with Airbus, United Technologies and Keyence Corporation [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 November, 2018

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The University of Leeds has ceased its dealings with Airbus, United Technologies and Keyence Corporation – all of which supply military equipment to Israel.
A UK university has ended investment in companies involved in Israeli arms trade following a fierce student-led BDS campaign.

The University of Leeds has ceased its dealings with Airbus, United Technologies and Keyence Corporation - all of which supply military equipment to Israel.

The university is also currently reviewing its ties to HSBC, which provides loans to Elbit Systems, Caterpillar and BAE Systems, all of which carry out arms deals with Israel.

The campaign was pushed by hundreds of university students, alumni and staff who signed an open letter to the university's Vice Chancellor after it emerged the university had invested £2.4 million [$3.1 million] in these companies this year.  

The decision was applauded by the Leeds Palestine Solidarity Group, whose director Evie Russell-Cohen commended students' efforts.

"It's clear that the Palestinian call for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions is being heard in the UK," Russell-Cohen said.

"Students are no longer willing to see their tuition fees funding weapons companies which profit from the killing of Palestinians."

Russell-Cohen hopes that the move, which activists say is a first for a UK university, will be mirrored by other British universities.

"This is a massive success, but we hope that it will only be the beginning of a wave change across UK universities. Our education can no longer be at the expense of human life."

Earlier this year, BDS campaigners at the University of Manchester scored a victory after getting Israel-linked Sabra Hummus pulled from the shelves on campus.

In 2016, the university's student union - which claims to be one of the largest student bodies in the UK - adopted BDS motions.

They have since worked to expose the university's ties with Israel-linked companies complicit in the occupation of Palestinian territories and violation of human rights.  

Israel sees the boycott movement as a strategic threat and accuses it of anti-Semitism - a claim activists deny, saying they want only to see an end to Israel's occupation.

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