Largest US Protestant Church divests from Israeli prison contractor G4S
The largest mainline Protestant church in U.S has divested from British security company G4S over the key role it plays in Israel's military occupation and the prison system at which Palestinians are held without trial and subjected to torture.
The General Board of Pension and Health Benefits (GBPHB) of The US United Methodist Church has instructed the managers of its $20bn fund to sell all shares in G4S.
The news follows a decision by the Gates Foundation to divest from G4S and the opening of an official UK government investigation into the company's activities in Palestine/Israel. G4S recently announced at its shareholders meeting in London that it plans to end its activities inside Israel's prisons, albeit not until 2017.
According to David Wildman, United Methodist Executive Secretary for Human Rights and Racial Justice at the General Board of Global Ministries, "This is the first time that a United Methodist general agency has included human rights violations related to Israel's illegal settlements and military occupation in a decision to divest from a company. We celebrate this strong human rights message both to G4S specifically and to other companies whose business operations support longstanding human rights abuses against Palestinians."
Rafeef Ziadah, spokesperson with the Palestinian BDS National Committee, the Palestinian civil society coalition that leads the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement, who was at the recent G4S shareholders meeting, said:
"This groundbreaking decision by a major US pension fund to divest from G4S is a further sign that the company's support for Israel's prison system and apartheid regime is becoming increasingly untenable."
"As more than 100 Palestinian political prisoners enter the 51st day of their mass hunger strike to protest Israel's use of detention without trial, it is becoming increasingly urgent for international institutions, corporations and pension funds to take action."
"The recent announcement by G4S that they will not renew their contract with the Israeli Prison Service when it expires in 2017 is obviously a welcome sign that the international BDS campaign against the company is having a massive impact."
"But G4S must act immediately to end all aspects of its complicity with Israeli human rights violations by ending all contracts with the Israeli prison service and occupation immediately."
G4S has lost contracts worth millions of pounds as trade unions, universities and other public bodies drop the company over its track record of human rights abuses.
More than 100 Palestinian political prisoners are today entering the 51st day of their incredible hunger strike. This makes it the longest ever mass hunger strike by Palestinian political prisoners.
The hunger strike is protesting Israel's use of administrative detention, a form of detention without trial that Israel widely uses as a way to detain Palestinians that protest Israel's system of colonisation and occupation. The last mass hunger strike in 2012 forced Israel to make historic concessions.