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Scotiabank has recently found itself in the spotlight for its role as the largest foreign investor in Elbit Systems, an Israeli arms manufacturing company that produces 85% of the drones used by the Israeli Air Force, as well as surveillance equipment deployed in Israel's occupation zones. The bank's investment in Elbit, valued at over 500 million euros, puts the spotlight on the lucrative arms industry.
In June this year, Elbit Systems drew condemnation and protests when it was one of the main exhibitors at the CANSEC arms fair in Ottawa. The event drew the attention of anti-war activists who denounced the company's involvement in the arms industries.
Despite an investment policy ostensibly focused on promoting human rights, Scotiabank is accused of indirectly supporting war crimes committed by the Israeli army by maintaining its links with Elbit Systems. Charlotte Kates, international coordinator of the Samidoun network of solidarity with Palestinian prisoners, shared her views on Elbit's role in the Israeli occupation of Palestine with North Star:
"Elbit systems [manufactures] the drones that Israel uses to engage in assassinations, in attacks on homes in Jenin and Gaza and throughout occupied Palestine," said Kates. "Every night Palestinians in Gaza wake up and can barely sleep due to the sounds of the drones flying overhead, wondering if there's going to be a target, an assassination, a hit."
While working people in Canada and the rest of the world struggle with rising inflation, Scotiabank has announced profits of over nine billion dollars for the year 2022. This financial success contrasts sharply with the growing perception that the bank takes advantage of its customers by charging high user fees and harvesting mortgage interest rates while investing in industries that raise moral and ethical questions.
Charlotte Kates sees no contradiction between Scotiabank's activities in Canada and its relationship with the Israeli army:
"These big Canadian Banks, big Canadian financial institutions, they're not serving the people," she said. "These are colonial institutions, their sole purpose is to make the rich even richer, while extracting the resources, wealth and even fees from working class and poor people here."
The Canadian Coalition for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) has called on Scotiabank to end its investment in Elbit Systems, and is organizing a week of action from September 16 to 23 to raise awareness of the issue. "We see the Zionist ruling class is making a killing marketing its weapons of war to the world. That's one reason why Scotiabank feels Elbit is a winning investment, because they sell their weapons as battle tested on Palestinians, Lebanese and Syrians."