Gates Foundation begins to divest from occupation profiteer G4S

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(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:



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

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