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British giant G4S to end Israeli business after BDS pressure

March 10, 2016 7:41 P.M. (Updated: March 22, 2016 12:53 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- British security giant G4S announced Wednesday plans to sell its Israeli businesses in the next 12 to 24 months, citing commercial reasons, according to the official website of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement.

The world’s largest private security company has been a major target for the movement, and has lost millions of dollars in contracts in more than a dozen countries as a result of a four-year long BDS campaign against them.

The announcement to close the Israeli subsidiary of the company was reported in their full-year results released Wednesday, which showed a 40 percent fall in pre-tax profits.

Private businesses, universities, trade unions, and UN bodies are among the company’s lost clients, including the Bill Gates Foundation, which divested its $170 million stake in the company in 2014 following protests at its offices in Seattle, London and Johannesburg.

Earlier this month, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in Jordan also ended its contract with G4S.

In April 2012, the company's involvement in Israeli prisons came under the spotlight as thousands of detainees in Israeli jails launched a mass hunger strike against poor treatment in custody.

G4S provides assistance to prisons inside Israel, as well as equipment for Ofer prison in the occupied West Bank and other detention facilities, activists say.

The company announced in 2013 its intention to end its role in illegal Israeli settlements, checkpoints and the prison by 2015, but did not implement the withdrawal.

G4S announced in 2014 it “did not intend to renew” its contract with the Israeli Prison Service when it expired in 2017 but has not yet implemented decision, according to the BDS Movement.

The Palestinian prisoners’ rights group Addameer called for the United Nations late last year to take action against G4S for its role in violent abuses that have taken place in detention centers worldwide.

In another recent victory from the BDS campaign, French telecom giant Orange announced the termination of its franchise relationship with Israeli company Partner Communications.

The Palestinian civil society campaign for BDS calls for applying broad boycott, divestment and sanctions initiatives against Israel, similar to those applied to South Africa during the apartheid era, until Israel meets its obligations under international law by respecting the basic right of the Palestinian people to self determination.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has slammed the BDS movement, and a recent EU decision to prohibit settlement products from being labelled "Made in Israel" briefly drove a wedge between EU and Israeli leadership at the end of last year.

British proposals to forbid a boycott of Israeli settlement goods by publicly-funded British institutions brought heavy criticism from the BDS movement last month.

Rafeef Ziadah, a spokesperson for the UK branch of the Palestinian BDS National Committee, slammed the British proposal at the time.

"By undermining local democracy in service of Israel, David Cameron is standing on the wrong side of history, just as Margaret Thatcher did with her support for apartheid South Africa," Ziadah said.

"The BDS movement in the UK has achieved wide support precisely because of the failure of successive UK governments to take action in response to Israel’s war crimes."
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