Late this past week, pro-Palestinian demonstrators protested in front of the Annual General Meeting of G4S shareholders at the London Stock Exchange. In response, the security firm stated that – after reviewing its business operations in conjunction with legal experts – it has determined that it is not in violation of international law. The Israeli Embassy in London also responded to the protest by stating, “It is astonishing to learn that assisting in stopping suicide bombers and protecting people in coffee shops or children on buses is a stain on the record of a commercial company. We can only wonder what ideology lies behind the demonstrators’ revulsion at the fact that so many Israeli lives have been saved.” The response further noted that “maybe the experience in stopping Palestinian terrorists is what makes this company the most suitable for providing security at the Olympics.”
Until now, the activist efforts of the BDS movement have not resulted in actual financial harm to GS4, which has also been placed in charge of security for the British Foreign Office and the British embassy in Afghanistan. However, observers are speculating that more serious repercussions may be in the offing, given that prominent media outlets are taking greater notice of the issue, as well as the fact that a noted member of the British Parliament is publicly asking the government if it has paid close attention to GS4’s work in the “West Bank” before assigning security contracts.
Israel’s foreign ministry has lately been expressing its concern that the BDS campaign appears to be gaining support beyond the confines of its immediate supporters. Those concerns have been prompted by such developments as a decision by the governments of Denmark and South Africa to specifically label products manufactured in Judea and Samaria, as well as the decision by England’s Co-Op supermarket chain to cancel its business contracts with Israeli agricultural export companies that also sell produce from the settlements. From the perspective of the Israeli government, organized boycotts of goods emanating from the settlements are the same as boycotts of Israel proper.
Israel’s diplomats worry that the move by Denmark could be a harbinger of new steps by the European Union to implement its earlier pronouncements that it would place labels on items coming out of Judea and Samaria.
In 2009, the British government indicated that it would like to monitor Israeli exports to guarantee that products sold by settlements would not be able to take advantage of the preferential duty rates that apply to general exports from Israel under the Jewish state’s agreement with the European Union. There has been no actual follow-up to these attempts, despite the government’s occasional condemnations of Israel’s construction of new settlements, including one late last week by British Foreign Secretary William Hague.
“The British government, and our EU partners, have made it consistently clear,” said Hague in reference to a new announcement by Israel that it would build 850 homes in Judea and Samaria, “that settlement construction is illegal under international law, (is) an obstacle to peace and should stop immediately.”