U.S. Human Rights Groups Welcome Announcement by G4S Regarding Sale of Israeli Subsidiary
March 10, 2016
Company Target of Boycott and Divestment Effort for Complicity in Israeli Prisoner Abuse
Palestinian rights advocates are welcoming the decision by British security company G4S to sell its Israeli subsidiary following years of campaigns that have cost the company millions in contracts. According to the Financial Times, “the company is extracting itself from reputationally damaging work, including its entire Israeli business, which employs 8,000 people and has a turnover of £100m.” G4S has been a target of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement in support of Palestinian rights due to its role in Israeli prisons where Palestinians are tortured and held without trial, as well as its role in Israeli checkpoints and a police training center.
Campaigns across the United States encouraging institutions to divest from G4S have contributed to pressure on the company. Last year Columbia University became the first university in America to divest from private prisons, including G4S, following a campaign driven by students. In 2014, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation sold the entirety of its $170 million stake in G4S following an international campaign and the United Methodist Church divested from G4S “due in part to concerns about the company’s involvement in human rights violations in the Israeli prison system and the military occupation of Palestinian territories.” In Durham, NC, activists successfully encouraged the county council to end a $1 million private security contract with G4S.
“The decision by G4S to sell its Israeli subsidiary and youth detention services in the US and UK is a direct result of the tireless campaigning by human rights activists around the world, and should serve as an indicator to other multinational corporations that the world will no longer turn a blind eye towards profiting from Israeli apartheid and systematic human rights abuses,” explained Rebecca Vilkomerson, Jewish Voice for Peace Executive Director.”
G4S is the latest company to succumb to pressure from BDS campaigners. Israeli company SodaStream finally admitted last month that BDS had an impact on its decision to close a factory in an illegal West Bank settlement and French multinational Veolia was forced to exit the Israeli market after losing more than $20 billion in contracts.
“We have seen companies like G4S and SodaStream initially deny the role of BDS in their business decisions, only to admit the obvious impact later at a later time. There is no doubt we are seeing a pattern of corporations around the world ceasing activity complicit in Israeli human rights abuses,”" said Yousef Munayyer, Executive Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation. “We are seeing it with this week’s news about G4S and now cosmetics company Ahava, which just announced that, like SodaStream, it is moving its plant out of the occupied West Bank following a sustained BDS effort. The Israeli government and its allies in the US would like to silence us -- that is why they are sponsoring legislation all over the country to block our constitutional right to boycott. We will press on because it is the moral and ethical thing to do.”
As the largest private security company in the world, G4S has long been a target of activists for its complicity in human rights abuses in Israeli prisons, as well as private prisons, juvenile detention centers, and immigrant detention centers in the US and around the world.
"G4S' announcement to shut down their youth incarceration operations in the U.S. follows the Prison Divestment Campaign's recent victories at Columbia University and the University of California when the schools divested from G4S due to its role in mass incarceration. Enlace and our coalition partners will continue to pressure cities, universities, and other institutions across the country to divest from G4S, as well as other prison profiteers like Wells Fargo, until they end all their abusive practices," said Mary Mendez, Enlace Deputy Director.
Last year, a 'Black4Palestine' statement’ signed by more than 1,000 Black activists and artists, including Angela Davis, Cornel West, Talib Kweli, called for divestment from G4S due to its impact on Black and Palestinian communities.
Kristian Davis Bailey, a co-organizer of the statement and participant in a Stanford campaign that helped pressure The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to divest from G4S, said Wednesday's news was a testament to grassroots organizing.
"It is clear that the Gates responded to pressure from students and BDS activists around the world, and it is clear we made it too costly for G4S to incarcerate Black people in the US and Palestinians," Bailey said. "Our challenge now is to continue to support South Africans and migrants that G4S still profits from detaining, and to fight larger systems of incarceration and deportation."
Munayyer added: “We remain in solidarity with those who continue to oppose G4S profiteering from the American prison industrial complex and we will continue our own G4S campaigns until it is clear that their apartheid profiteering has ended.”