BDS: security company G4S announces plans to exit Israeli market

PNN/Jerusalem

British security company G4S has responded to a four-year long global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign protesting its role in Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights by announcing it will sell its Israeli subsidiary in the coming “12 to 24 months.”

The company announced the sale in an end-of-year results statement released yesterday.

In describing the move, The Financial Times reported that G4S was “extracting itself from reputationally damaging work”.

Since 2010, G4S has lost contracts worth millions of dollars in more than a dozen countries following BDS campaigns protesting its role in Israeli prisons where Palestinians are tortured and held without trial, and in Israeli checkpoints, illegal settlements and a police training center.

Their lost clients include private businesses, universities, trade unions, and UN bodies.

The Bill Gates Foundation divested its $170m stake in the company following protests at its offices in Seattle, London and Johannesburg.

In recent weeks, UNICEF in Jordan and a major restaurant chain in Colombia became the latest high-profile bodies to end their contracts with G4S after being urged to do so by BDS campaigners.

G4S has only announced a planned sale and the company will continue to face pressure until it actually ends its participation in Israeli crimes, campaigners say.

“As at the height of the international boycott of apartheid South Africa, BDS pressure is making some of the world’s biggest corporations realize that profiting from Israeli apartheid and colonialism is bad for business. Investment fund managers are increasingly recognizing that their fiduciary responsibility obliges them to divest from Israeli banks and companies that are implicated in Israel’s serious human rights violations such as G4S and HP because of the high risk entailed. We are starting to see a domino effect” said Mahmoud Nawajaa, a spokesperson for the Palestinian BDS National Committee, the broadest coalition in Palestinian society that leads the BDS movement.

French multinationals Veolia and Orange and CRH, Ireland’s biggest company, have all exited the Israeli market in recent months as a result of BDS campaigning.

In January, the United Methodist Church put five Israeli banks from Israel on a “blacklist” due to their complicity in human rights violations, including the financing of illegal Israeli settlements.

G4S announced in 2013 that it would end its role in illegal Israeli settlements, checkpoints and one Israeli prison by 2015 but did not implement the withdrawal.

In 2014, G4S announced it “did not intend to renew” its contract with the Israeli Prison Service when it expired in 2017 but is yet to implement that decision.

Adv. Sahar Francis, Director of Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, said:

“The latest reports that G4S will sell its subsidiaries in Israel is welcome news but this has no immediate effect on those facing human rights violations inside Israel’s prisons today. At a time when Israel is stepping up its campaign of mass incarceration as a way of repressing Palestinian society, G4S should end its role in Israel’s prison system immediately, as well as its role in maintaining Israeli checkpoints and illegal settlements.”

“G4S has a track record of breaking pledges to end its participation in Israel’s crimes so BDS campaign pressure on G4S will continue until it actually sells its Israeli subsidiary. We are grateful to all of the dedicated grassroots organisers around the world who are working in solidarity with Palestinians seeking freedom, justice, and equality and who are campaigning tirelessly to hold G4S to account for its support for Israeli apartheid and colonialism,” Mahmoud Nawajaa SAID.

G4S also has a long and documented track record of participation in human rights and workers’ rights abuses elsewhere in the world, especially in prisons and migrant detention centres it has run in the US, the UK and South Africa.

Nawajaa added that “We [BDS] also welcome the news that G4S is also selling its businesses that operate youth detention centers in the US and the UK, both of which have been shown to involve abusive practices by G4S and both of which are part of deeply racist incarceration systems.”

“From the US to Palestine, from South Africa to the UK, G4S works across the world to maintain injustice and oppression. We remain determined to work closely with partners to hold G4S to account for its participation in human rights abuses.”

“As more people around the world join our movement for freedom and justice, Israel continues to smear and attack us, including with laws in Europe and the US aimed at silencing dissent and suppressing our freedom of speech.”

“We believe strongly that our ethical approach and just cause will prevail, as this latest G4S announcement shows.”