Gates Foundation begins to divest from occupation profiteer G4S

(Graphic Stephanie Westbrook)

(Graphic Stephanie Westbrook)

On April 17, ahead of of Palestinian prisoner’s dayAddameer Prisoner Support, Human Rights Association, War on Want, and over 100 Palestinian and international organizations issued a Call to action asking Bill Gates to divest from the British security company G4S, the largest private military and security company in the world.

Addameer issued a press release today informing us the Gates Foundation has sold the bulk of its shares G4S:

 

GATES FOUNDATION SELLS DOWN ITS SHARES IN G4S

After campaigning pressure, the Gates Foundation has sold the bulk of its shares in the world’s largest private military and security company, G4S. Over 100 Palestinian and international organisations, including War on Wantlaunched a campaign calling on the Gates Foundation to divest its £110m ($167m USD) stake from the company. Thanks to everyone who joined the campaign, signed the petition and participated in protests.

“We are glad the pressure on the Gates Foundation to divest from G4S is starting to work. We urge the Foundation to sell any remaining shares it still holds and release a public statement pledging not to invest in corporations profiting from Israel’s military occupation,” said Rafeef Ziadah, Senior Campaigns Officer at War on Want.

War on Want partner, Addameer Palestinian Prisoner and Human Rights Association added, “we have been arguing that it is completely unacceptable for a charitable foundation to be investing in a company, like G4S, which participates in gross human rights violations against Palestinian political prisoners, including child prisoners. We welcome this step in the right direction.”

The impact of the Gates Foundation, as a major shareholder, divesting the majority of its shares from G4S will be felt within the company. Campaigners will continue to target all G4S shareholders and contracts, especially in the Middle East, until the company can no longer ignore the damage its contract with the Israeli prison services is having on its reputation and profit margin.

G4S is highly complicit in the Israeli military occupation of Palestine and is particularly complicit in the imprisonment of the over 5,000 Palestinian political prisoners, including child prisoners. In 2007, the British security company G4S signed a contract with the Israeli Prison Authority to provide security systems and other services for major Israeli prisons. Beyond Israel’s prison system, G4S also provides equipment and services to Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank that form part of the route of Israel’s illegal Wall and to the terminals isolating the occupied and besieged territory of Gaza.

Universities, banks, charities and trade unions across the world have terminated contracts with G4S over its role in Israel’s prison system, costing the company millions of pounds. But G4S has refused to sever ties with the Israeli prisons authority.

Our continued efforts to hold G4S to account are needed today more than ever. On 24 April 2014 approximately 100 Palestinian administrative detainees launched a mass hunger strike in response to their continued detention without charge or trial.  Most of those on hunger strike have now gone 35 days without food. On 28 May 2014, 40 of them were transferred to hospital as their health deteriorated rapidly. The Israeli authorities immediately imposed a number of punitive measures including: the immediate isolation of all those on hunger strike.

On 5 June, G4S will be holding its annual shareholders meeting. War on Want will be there to send a clear message that profiting from Israel’s illegal military occupation is unacceptable.

This is great news, but the pressure won’t let up until the Gates Foundation sells all remaining shares in G4s. I had an inkling the campaign was having an impact because a good friend of mine who works for the Gates Foundation contacted me last month informing me, “There is a big protest outside of work today!!!!”

This morning I spoke with the indomitable Ed Mast, from Seattle Mideast Awareness Campaign  (SeaMAC), Palestine Solidarity Committee and NW BDS coalition, persistent solidarity groups who’ve organized and carried out multiple actions on the ground outside the Gates Foundation headquarters in Seattle. He gave us a statement:

We hope it’s not just a cosmetic change so they don’t show up on some major shareholders list, either way they’ve gotten the message and it may be that they’re trying to duck their heads without taking a clear action.

But the pressure is working, the international protest is working.  I don’t understand why they don’t divest – follow through and divest completely. It’s not just the amount of shares, it’s the issue. They can’t avoid that by just divesting 50 million of those dollars.

We’ll continue to protest them as long as they have any investment in G4S.

 

If we work in solidarity, we can make an impact.

About Annie Robbins

Annie Robbins is Editor at Large for Mondoweiss, a mother, a human rights activist and a ceramic artist. She lives in the SF bay area. Follow her on Twitter @anniefofani
Posted in BDS, Israel/Palestine | Tagged ,

{ 21 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. StCuthbert says:

    Every little bit helps. Nice work to all who contributed!

  2. Wow! This is huge!

  3. just says:

    Thank you to all the people who worked hard on this incredibly important and humanitarian cause!

    And thank you, Bill and Melinda Gates for listening and acting.

    Now, please DUMP the rest of the torture/murder stock of these unconscionable mercenaries!
    (thank you Annie!)

    • Ellen says:

      Yes, this is very big. Bill and Melinda suffer from the US American disease. (Bubble of information and exposure) But they are NOT stupid people. And they are not indoctrinated or “bad” people. They have the intelligence to consider new good information. All considered they are among the good people with good intentions. They can ( if they want) make change. They are NOT pop culture phonies

      • just says:

        I think that is very true about these 2 people.

        They actually give a dam* about people, and do good works.

      • Keith says:

        ELLEN- “All considered they are among the good people with good intentions.”

        Bill Gates is a ruthless power-seeker who strongly supports all of the noxious “free trade” (read ‘corporate rule’) agreements, and along with the Koch brothers supports charter schools (down with public education) and computer oriented programmed instruction, perfect for software development. Also, Gates and his “philanthropic” buddy Warren Buffet are looking to invest in the Canadian tar sands boom, relying on rail transport instead of the northern leg of the Keystone XL (the southern leg already approved and, I believe, completed). In other words, opposition to the northern section of the Keystone XL is consistent with Buffet’s investment in rail transport for tar sands oil.

        The harsh reality is that those we laud as philanthropists are, in reality, fat-cat social engineers whose “charity” promotes their personal agenda. I am sure that a full perusal of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation portfolio would probably reveal numerous questionable holdings. Questionable for the 99% that is. None of these so called ‘do-gooder’ foundations will ever do anything to fundamentally alter the current system of injustice which underpins their wealth and privilege. They are an integral part of the political economy of empire. And while you may choose to believe that Bill Gates is a “good person with good intentions,” I don’t. I am sure, however, that both Bill and Melinda see themselves this way, much as the royalty of old liked to think of themselves as serving the people’s welfare.

        As for me, I firmly believe that concentrated wealth is a symptom of social dystopia.

        • Keith says:

          As we begin to enter the age of neo-feudalism, perhaps it is appropriate to refer to the new capitalist nobility by traditional titles which more accurately reflect their social position and power. Lord Gates, Great Lord Microsoft, Lord Buffet, Great Lord Berkshire Hathaway, Mega-Lord Goldman Sachs, etc. How about Lesser Lord Jagger?

          • Bumblebye says:

            Nearly so – but I think the huge corporations are more akin to the Dukedoms of yore. The banksters may be Earldoms, the celebs mere Knights and Barons or those are the minions of the Dukes and Earls. So maybe Squire Jagger? Dame Oprah? Then there’s the rest of us – yeomen and serfs.

  4. Kay24 says:

    Great news. This is large step going in the right direction. Bill and Melinda Gates have shown a lot of compassion towards others and their suffering, and not the usual selfish wealthy types.
    I guess they did give it much thought, and finally did the right thing.

    Okay, who is next?

  5. i love this video! i can see rawan, refaat and youself from the gaza writes back book tour while they were in seattle joined the protest.

    i urge everyone to click on the ed mast embed and check out all the apartheid adventure videos he’s made. (some really amazing)

    • just says:

      Brilliant!

      And omg– the apartheid adventure videos are gems of the highest order! Positively on target and brilliant as well. What a great gift to send to less- than- aware folks, and I am quite sure they’ll be a hit with all of the sentient/aware folks that I know.

      (I am terribly saddened that G4S is partly Danish…..they should know better!)

    • Bumblebye says:

      I love the ‘Apartheid Adventures’ brand!
      Can I say it’s a brilliant Mast’Ed?

      And I note the Twiddler-in-Chief must be back from his/her hollies – Recent Comments is finally fixed!

  6. Walid says:

    Bravo on the Gates divestment.

    Interestingly, G4S is still operating in Yemen, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, Lebanon, Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt, and Bahrain, Algeria, Morocco, Somalia, and Tunisia. Some of its better known services are private security services for airports in Iraq, UAE, and Qatar; securing pilgrims in Saudi Arabia; and guarding US and European embassies. None of these Arab countries seem disturbed by G4S involvement in Israel’s prison system. One can only speculate on the amount of spying being done for Israel. G4S has announced that it would be walking away from its West Bank contracts (with Israel) in 2015 but hasn’t said anything about walking away from Israel itself.

  7. Baldur says:

    I’m not surprised Mr. Gates made the correct moral decision when confronted by this. Nowadays he’s quite the paragon as far as what you achieve as a super-rich person. He’s probably the private person who has saved the most lives this far in the 21st century, and he’s made tremendous constructive efforts for the good of the world. Now there’s a person I would like to see as POTUS.

    • amigo says:

      “Now there’s a person I would like to see as POTUS.” Baldur.

      Too much software and not enough Hardware.

  8. Well Thank the Lord!

    I really need a new computer and I was starting to get nervous. Between Apple’s new deal with Israel and HP being entrenched there, I was beginning to think I was going to have to continue to refurbish my old laptop.

    I can get a SurfacePro now and just support oppressed chinese labor. :S

    On a side note, HP earnings are down, wonder if corporations are choosing to slyly support BDS by not purchasing the HP servers?

  9. Gates will become a target from many angles and perspectives now- business,personal,and legal. The informations gathered by eavesdropping will cost him.
    US presidents and negotiators and other “enemies” have proved the realities repeatedly .

    link to newsweek.com

  10. just says:

    Wonder who did this?

    “An art exhibit in Los Angeles featuring posters promoting the Palestinian boycott of Israeli goods was vandalized, the Los Angeles Times reported.

    According to the curator of the exhibit, entitled “Boycott! The Art of Economic Activism,” six posters were thrown in the trash and three were stolen. The exhibit, organized by the American Friends Service Committee, a Quaker organization, displays a variety of replicas of posters featuring boycott movements throughout history, among them the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama and South Africa’s anti-apartheid divestment campaign.

    (and)

    Eight out of the nine posters vandalized featured the boycott of goods made in Israel or in Israeli settlements in the West Bank. The organization is considering turning to the police, but hasn’t yet. ”

    link to haaretz.com

  11. JustJessetr says:

    Nothing from the story or the comments (or even the Electronic Intifada story) shows any clear link between BDS protests and the sale of the bulk (but not all) of the investments. It seems like pure speculation at this point.

    There was a protest, some shares were sold. That’s it. It could easily have been an unrelated investment strategy. There were a lot of protests about the Stones playing in Israel, and they postponed their performance by 45 minutes. Are BDS going to claim victory there too?