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Major Japanese Firm Cuts Ties With Israel Arms Company Elbit After ICJ Ruling

The company’s CFO said the decision was made in compliance with the ICJ’s recent genocide ruling.

People gather and demonstrate on the street to express their solidarity with Palestinian people as part of the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people in Tokyo, Japan, on November 29, 2023.

A major firm in Japan is cutting ties with the Israeli arms manufacturer Elbit Systems, citing the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) initial ruling last month that Israel’s mass slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza may amount to a genocide.

Itochu, a trading firm ranked 96th on Fortune’s Global 500 list of the world’s largest companies, announced on Monday that its aviation arm is ending its memorandum of understanding (MOU), or a formal agreement for two parties to collaborate, with Elbit.

Elbit is Israel’s largest defense contractor, and has long been a target of anti-Zionist activists, with groups like Palestine Action in particular targeting the firm with protests and blockades amid Israel’s current assault; Japanese activists had protested outside of Itochu’s aviation division in order to protest the company’s ties with Israel.

The two companies had been working together to fulfill demands from Japan’s defense ministry, Itochu Chief Financial Officer Tsuyoshi Hachimura said in an earnings press conference, per Reuters.

“Taking into consideration the International Court of Justice’s order on January 26, and that the Japanese government supports the role of the Court, we have already suspended new activities related to the MOU, and plan to end the MOU by the end of February,” Hachimura said.

In a preliminary ruling, the ICJ has ordered Israel to take steps to avoid going further in its massacre of Palestinians, saying that Israel must abide by its obligations under the UN Genocide Convention. However, Israel appears to be disregarding the ruling and has continued its mass killings in Gaza over the past weeks, having killed over 1,000 more Palestinians in less than two weeks after the ruling and continuing its deadly blockade of food, water, and other humanitarian aid.

Activists behind the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement celebrated Itochu’s decision, calling it a victory for advocates who have been pushing for companies to cut ties with Elbit and other collaborators in Israel’s genocide.

“The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), the largest Palestinian coalition leading the global BDS movement, warmly welcomes this decision which follows a campaign by a coalition of solidarity groups including BDS Japan Bulletin,” the group wrote in a statement. “Campaigners calling for an end to the MOU, which also includes Japanese Nippon Aircraft Supply, argued that collaboration with Elbit Systems, which supplies arms to Israel’s genocidal forces, makes the companies complicit in Israeli crimes and violations of international law.”

“In harmony with the Japanese government’s respect for the orders of the World Court, Itochu complies with its obligation to avoid any complicity with genocide,” the statement said.

The Itochu news is one of several wins logged by the BDS movement recently. Companies facing BDS-related boycotts like McDonald’s and Starbucks have reported that their profits have been falling short of expectations due to the boycotts. After McDonald’s reported on Monday that the company doesn’t expect to see improvements in certain markets until there’s a “resolution in the Middle East,” shares fell 4.3 percent, Financial Times reported.

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