What has happened?

The Co-operative Bank has closed Palestine Solidarity Campaign bank account. The decision was made unilaterally by the Co-operative Bank, without reason. When we asked, they refused to overturn it and they refused to provide any grounds or justification for their decision.

 

What information did the Co-op Bank give PSC about their decision?

In October, PSC’s account was closed by the Co-operative Bank which cited “the Bank’s risk appetite” for the closure and has refused to elaborate.

When PSC pressed them about it, they refused to disclose further information. The bank refused to explain what their “risk appetite” is or how the PSC falls within it.

 

How long has the PSC had an account with the Co-operative Bank for?

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign had been banking with the Coop for over 10 years.

 

What are the Co-operative Bank saying now?

Now that the Co-operative Bank are being pressed for information by lots of other people they have said that:

“for customers who operate in, or send money to, high risk locations throughout the world, advanced due diligence checks are required by all banks to ensure the funds do not inadvertently fund alleged or proscribed activities.”

It is worth noting that the Co-operative Bank only sent this statement to PSC on 8th December 2015 in response to our legal letter.

 

Does this just affect Palestine Solidarity Campaign?

No, it affects lots of charities and campaigning organisations working on issues around the world.

The Cuba Solidarity Campaign has also had its bank account closed, as has Wales Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign’s account. The Co-operative Bank has also closed all these accounts: International Women’s Peace Service Palestine, Saddleworth Women’s Scholarship Fund, Sheffield Palestine Women’s Scholarship Fund, Abu Bakr Rauf Memorial Scholarship Fund, Computers for Palestine, Yorkshire Palestine Cultural exchange, Discover Palestine, Liverpool Friends of Bil’in, Abergavenny PSC branch , Bristol PSC branch, Cambridge PSC branch, Norwich PSC branch , Northern Palestine Solidarity Network, Nottingham PSC branch , Oxford PSC branch, Plymouth PSC branch , Sheffield PSC branch, Boycott Israel Network, West Midlands PSC branch and York PSC branch. There are probably many more.

 

Does the PSC conduct risky transactions in the occupied Palestinian territory?

All of the PSC’s campaign work is based in the UK. We do not finance or run projects in the West Bank, Gaza or other parts of the world.

We have a few limited transactions overseas, which only relate to our trade union delegations to Palestine, bringing speakers to Britain, and our merchandise. These include:  bookings for hotels and transport for when we are there (we hire a bus). We also sell Palestinian scarves and wristbands which we buy direct from the producers.  These are not risky purchases. PSC takes full steps to check that its money does not fund terrorism, even inadvertently.

And although we shared all this information with the Co-operative Bank they didn’t suggest we should change our manner of purchasing goods and services from overseas.

That’s why we are so surprised that the Co-operative Bank has made this decision – and their reluctance to tell us their reasons when it could have been so easily cleared up.

 

Isn’t the Co-operative Bank a cooperative?

No, not any more. The Co-operative Bank is now run by private investors including a USA based hedge-fund. This accounts for 80% of the shares.

The Co-operative Bank is no longer the same as the Co-op group. It shouldn’t be confused with the Co-op supermarket or other Co-op brands.

 

What is the PSC doing about it?

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) has launched a legal case against the Co-operative Bank on the grounds of discrimination.

Another 27 organisations working for Palestine – including a number of PSC branches – have also had their accounts closed or denied.

Given the lack of any objective justification for the decision, we believe that the decision must have been made because of our support for Palestine. PSC and its legal team believe that such a decision would be discriminatory and contravene the Equality Act 2010. PSC has accordingly initiated legal proceedings against the Bank.

The Co-operative Bank have assured us that they will send a substantive response by 8th December, after which we will meet with our lawyers and discuss next steps. We will keep our supporters updated.

 

What can I do about it?

You can help the campaign!

If you bank with the Co-operative please close your account and send them a letter explaining why. You can download a letter to send them by clicking here (if this document doesn’t work for you then you can copy and paste the letter from here). Make sure you copy in the CEO, Niall Brooker so that he knows the full impact of the Co-operative Banks actions (his address is at the bottom of the letter). You can find your branch’s address on the Co-op website here.

You can also send a complaint letter to the CEO. We’ve drafted one which you are welcome to send as is or amend. Click here.

Thank you for taking action. Moving bank account is a big decision – and we know it can be a real pain! But we need to show big businesses they can’t profit off of fake ethics. If they believe in human rights and equality – that includes Palestine too.

2017 update:

PSC did not take any further legal action regarding this matter.

Amnesty International published a report on the Co-operative Bank’s closure of NGO customer accounts including PSC’s account. You can read the report here.