Bowing to BDS pressure

Update: G4S to divest completely from apartheid Israel

Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), June 1, 2023

In a major win for human rights activism against corporate complicity, the world’s largest private security company Allied Universal, which owns G4S, has decided to sell all its remaining business in apartheid Israel. This follows years of an effective #StopG4S campaign waged by the BDS movement for Palestinian rights.

 

This victory comes after human rights campaigns caused G4S serious “reputational damage” and some lucrative investments and contracts. Along with the BDS movement, several other human rights campaigns have also targeted G4S over its long, violent record of human rights abuses against prisoners, migrants, and other communities worldwide, including the UK, South Africa and the US. 

The BDS campaign against G4S was launched by Palestinian prisoners’ rights and human rights organizations in 2012 to support the major hunger strike waged then by Palestinian political prisoners. This pressure led to high profile divestment from G4S by the Church of Sweden, the United Methodist Church, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, a Kuwaiti investment fund, UN agencies, trade unions, universities, restaurant chains, among others, compelling the company in 2016 to divest from Israel’s prison system, military checkpoints and illegal settlements. 

Yet, the #StopG4S campaign kept up the pressure to get G4S to divest from its remaining stake in the consortium that operates Policity, Israel’s police academy, given the well documented war crimes and grave human rights violations perpetrated by Israeli police over decades. Allied Universal, which acquired G4S in 2021, is now finally selling this share in Policity to the Israeli company G1 that is notorious for its complicity in human rights violations. The sale is pending approval by the Israeli authorities.

The final straw that compelled Allied Universal to end its complicity in apartheid Israel’s human rights abuses against Indigenous Palestinians seems to be the strong position taken by the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec (CDPQ), which manages the funds of the Quebec Pension Plan and other public pension plans. Trade unions and BDS campaigners, led by BDS Quebec and American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), have been pressuring CDPQ since Allied Universal’s acquisition of G4S, raising the issue in direct conversation with the fund and with members of parliament. 

CDPQ became the largest shareholder in Allied Universal in 2019, and supported the company in its bidding for the takeover of G4S, in direct violation of its commitment to ethical and socially responsible investment. When a Quebec lawmaker earlier this month criticized CDPQ’s investment in Allied Universal in a parliamentary committee, saying that “cases of [Israeli] torture against Palestinian political prisoners, including children, are widely documented by human rights organizations,” CDPQ’s CEO replied: “I completely agree with you. This is not the kind of activity we endorse at all.”

Given apartheid Israel’s rising economic and financial troubles, especially the drying up of investments in high-tech, we may see an increasing number of multinationals divesting from it.

The BDS movement, with its intersectional partnerships worldwide, calls for intensifying pressure on other corporate criminals to make them respect their human rights obligations and stop profiting from oppression and injustice. Despite the enormous financial, legal and propaganda resources that multinationals have wielded against us, and despite the support they have received from Israel and its partners in crime, mainly the US, EU and UK, our strategic and collective pressure over the years has brought many of them to their knees, forcing them to divest from apartheid Israel. 

They try to sear into our consciousness the impossibility of prevailing over them, but we have prevailed. With the growing support from racial, economic, climate, social and gender justice movements worldwide, we surely can prevail in many more corporate accountability struggles in pursuit of freedom, justice and equality.

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