Honour your heritage by ending investment in arms to Israel, Quakers urge Barclays Bank

As Barclays Bank holds its AGM on Thursday, 9 May, Quakers urge them to stop investing in companies supplying arms to Israel.

Barclays tower
As Barclays Bank holds its AGM on Thursday, 9 May, Quakers urge them to stop investing in companies supplying arms to Israel, photo credit: By Matt Brown on Flickr CC BY 2.0 see below

Barclays Bank was set up by two Quakers in 1690 but has not been Quaker run since the late 19th century.

New research by War on Want, Campaign Against Arms Trade and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign has found that Barclays holds over £2bn in shares of such companies, as well as providing over £6bn in loans and underwriting to them.

Shares in companies arming Israel increase by 55%

Since 2021 the bank has increased its shares in companies arming Israel by 55 per cent. It tripled its shares in Elbit Systems, which manufactures the Hermes 450 drone that killed seven aid workers on 2 April.

Now Paul Parker, recording clerk for Quakers in Britain, has written to Nigel Higgins, chairman of Barclays Bank PLC, asking him to honour their shared history.

“Barclays' continuing relationship with arms companies complicit in the current violence in Gaza is entirely at odds with the modern values of the Quaker community the bank has roots in," he writes.

“This is why we are asking you at this time to end investments in and provision of financial services to companies supplying arms and military equipment to Israel."

The violence in Gaza has escalated since Hamas's attack on Israel on 7 October, killing 1,200 Israelis and taking 250 hostage. Since then, over 34,000 people have been killed in Gaza.

This suffering is made possible by governments allowing the export of arms to Israel, and businesses providing the goods and services necessary for arms companies to operate.

Internationally there are growing calls for governments to immediately stop facilitating arms transfers to Israel, or risk complicity in serious breaches of international law.

There have also been mass movements of citizens refusing to engage with businesses and institutions involved with arms companies.

More than 2,500 customers – including Quakers – have closed their accounts with Barclays in protest.

On its website the bank talks of how it flourished because of Quakers' reputation for integrity.

And it emphasizes how key Quaker figures in Barclays sought to live out their faith, by campaigning for the abolition of slavery and for prison reform.

Parker has asked Barclays for a meeting to explore ways forward.

Read full letter here