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War on Gaza: Japan's Itochu cuts ties with Israel's Elbit Systems, citing ICJ ruling

Following protests, Japanese firm ended cooperation with Israel's largest defence firm that services the army in war on Gaza
The logo of Itochu Corporation outside the company's headquarters in Tokyo, Japan, 7 November 2016 (Reuters)

One of Japan’s biggest firms, Itochu, has decided to end its partnership with a major Israeli defence company due to Israel's ongoing war on Gaza.

Itochu Corp’s aviation unit will end its strategic cooperation with Israel's Elbit Systems by the end of the month after the International Court of Justice ordered Israel to prevent acts of genocide against Palestinians and do more to help civilians.

Itochu Aviation, Elbit Systems, and Nippon Aircraft Supply (NAS) signed a strategic cooperation memorandum of understanding (MoU) in March of last year. 

"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," said Itochu Chief Financial Officer Tsuyoshi Hachimura.

The Japanese firm had sought guidance from Japan’s foreign ministry who had told the company to observe the ICJ findings in “good faith”, a spokesperson for Itochu told CNN on Tuesday.

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The ICJ ordered Israel to “take all measures” to limit the death and destruction resulting from one of this century’s most bloody military campaigns, prevent and punish incitement to genocide emanating from Israeli public officials and ensure access to humanitarian aid.

Hachimura, the company’s chief financial officer, made the announcement on Monday during an earnings presentation.

Itochu, which has reported revenues of $104bn in 2023, has faced student-led protests in Tokyo over its partnership agreement with the "merchant of death" Elbit Systems. 

Calls for boycotting Itochu

In November, Elbit CEO Bezhalel Machlis said the company had “ramped up production” in a bid to support the Israeli army, which uses its services “extensively”.

Japanese protesters in January stood outside Itochu's headquarters holding signs that read, "Itochu makes money by killing! Unforgivable!" and "Itochu is complicit in the massacre!”

The World Court has put Israel and its allies on trial for genocide
Read More »

Protesters last month hand-delivered a petition, signed by more than 25,000 people, directly to Itochu, calling on the company to stop its collaboration with Elbit. 

One protester outside the Japanese company’s headquarters said Itochu was engaged in a partnership with a “company that supports Israel's racist system and genocide”.

“Ending this partnership sends a message from Japan to Israel and the world that it will not tolerate violent solutions,” added the protester.

One of Itochu’s subsidiaries in Malaysia, FamilyMart, was also forced to issue a statement that it “does not contribute to or donate to, or deal with Israel” following calls to boycott the company.

McDonald's and Starbucks have seen their profits take a hit as a result of the conflict in Gaza, with the companies pointing to boycotts over their perceived pro-Israel stances.

According to CNBC, McDonald's shares fell nearly four percent on Monday following reports that a sales slowdown in the Middle East had contributed to its fourth-quarter revenue miss.

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