One of Japan’s top trading firms, Itochu Corporation, has announced that it is severing ties with Israeli weapons provider, Elbit Systems. The firm has been the subject of Tokyo-based activism since December 2023, with actions including petitions and demonstrations in the capital.
One of Japan’s most well-known investment companies, Itochu is a major stakeholder in some of the country’s most familiar brands, including Edwin Jeans and Family Mart. Along with Nippon Aircraft Supply, the company signed its memorandum of cooperation with Elbit Systems in March 2023, seven months prior to the start of the Israel-Hamas war.
Elbit Systems is known for its vocal and financial support of the Israeli invasion of Gaza, which was in response to the Hamas attack on October 7. In November 2023, Elbit Systems stated that it would ramp up its support for the Israeli military, to aid its Gaza operations.
Boycotting Itochu’s Brands
Some of Itochu’s key brands have been the subject of mass boycotts since the end of 2023, including Family Mart. The convenience store franchise chain is one of the most sought-after companies for employment post-graduation. Several demonstrations were subsequently coordinated to take place outside job fairs. Itochu’s Tokyo offices were also occupied by protesters for a short time at the start of February, all of which may have contributed to the announcement which came on Monday.
According to Tsuyoshi Hachimura, Itochu’s chief financial officer (CFO), the company is planning to exit its partnership with Elbit Systems by the end of February. “The partnership is based on a request from the Japan Defense Ministry for the purpose of importing defense equipment for the Self-Defense Forces necessary for Japan’s security and is not in any way related to the current conflict between Israel and Palestine,” said Hachimura at an earnings press conference.
Despite this, in a separate statement, a spokesperson for the company later cited the International Court of Justice’s ruling on January 26, saying that it would comply with Japan’s Foreign Ministry to observe the court’s findings in “good faith.” The ruling stated that Israel must take all measures to limit its genocidal activities in the Gaza region. This stopped short of calling for a ceasefire but does go along with South Africa’s allegations that Israel is committing genocide against Palestine.
The Tokyo activists who began the demonstrations against Itochu are now calling on Nippon Aircraft Supply to cut its ties with Elbit Systems.