BOYCOTT VICTORY AS G4S ANNOUNCES ISRAEL WITHDRAWAL FOLLOWING FOUR-YEAR BDS CAMPAIGN
G4S Security, the world’s largest security firm, announced last month its plans to end all business with Israel within the next 12 to 24 months. The company has been the focus of a global (including South African) BDS boycott due to - among other - its involvement in the Israeli prison system, torture centres, detention facilities, Israeli settlements and Israeli Separation Wall.
This week as we commemorate Palestinian Prisoner Day (17 April), we - particularly as South Africans - are painfully reminded of the over 7000 Palestinian political prisoners, including more than 600 held without trial, 400 children, 70 women (several under the age of 16) and over 18 Palestinian journalists (43 journalists have been imprisoned in the past six months). The youngest Palestinian prisoner currently in an Israeli prison is 12 years old.
However, we also celebrate the strength of the growing non-violent BDS movement in holding Israel accountable (and companies like G4S, Caterpillar, Woolworths and others that are involved with Israel). All partner organizations, progressive business people and members of BDS supporters - this victory is yours! Click here for more info on this G4S victory.
SOME G4S BOYCOTT SUCCESSES FROM SOUTH AFRICA
The announcement by G4S makes the company the latest multinational – recently following municipal services firm Veolia, telecom giant Orange and construction materials conglomerate CRH – to exit from Israel following sustained, consistent and years-long campaigning by the BDS movement.
Since 2010, G4S has lost contracts worth millions of rands as a direct result of BDS campaigns. Here are some South African contributions to the G4S boycott.
OCTOBER 2013: From the historic Robben Island, South African anti-apartheid Icon Ahmed Kathrada announces the "International Campaign for the Release of Marwan Barghouthi and all Palestinian Political Prisoners". This was simultaneously accompanied by the launch of the local South African arm of the G4S BDS boycott campaign.
NOVEMBER 2013: BDS South Africa together with Open Shuhada Street engages with the Trauma Centre in Cape Town to end relations with G4S. This was followed by the Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims (RCT) in Denmark, Dan Church Aid (DCA), Amnesty International Denmark, the Food Bank in Utrecht, Jantje Beton in the Netherlands and various other charities, human rights groups and organisations also making similar moves.
2014-2015: The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) together with POPCRU, SATAWU, NEHAWU and other affiliates slam G4S practices both in South Africa and in Palestine. This was followed later by Norwegian union Industri Energy cancelling their contract with G4S and the UK-based East London Teachers Association (ELTA) passing a motion condemning G4S’s complicity in Israel’s prison system and calling on local authorities to terminate G4S contracts.
JUNE 2014: Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates's Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation sells R1.9 billion stake in G4S following protests and campaigning by BDS South Africa coordinated with partners across the world in various other cities.
AUGUST 2014: University of Cape Town students begin call to end relations with G4S as well as end outsourcing of campus security.
SEPTEMBER 2014: South Africa’s ruling party, the African National Congress (ANC), shuns G4S from future public tenders and contracts saying: "Companies that do business in the occupied territory, such as Cape Gate, G4S Security and Caterpillar, must not be allowed to do business with the state.”
APRIL 2015: After being approached by representatives of BDS South Africa as well as the KZN Palestine Solidarity Forum (KZN PSF), over 20 South African businesses terminate contracts totalling more than R7 million.
Palestinians have welcomed the news of G4S planning to exit Israel as a major victory and a sign of the powerful impact of the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. But they also warn that pressure on the company must continue until it has actually ended its role in Israel.