Pro-Palestinian supporters and proponents of divestiture from Israel over its policies in the West Bank are claiming victory on Friday after it was reported in numerous media outlets that Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft and the world’s wealthiest man, was selling shares of a British security firm with business links to the Israeli military.
G4S is a multinational firm that offers services in the security sector. It employs 620,000 people worldwide and it is estimated to be worth tens of billions of dollars.
According to the British newspaper Telegraph, Gates reduced his stake in the company, which was once thought to be just over 3 percent. Gates’ holdings in G4S were estimated to value $167 million.
Gates had bought shares of the firm through Cascade Investment, his privately-owned investment company, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, according to the Telegraph. But a recent filing with the stock exchange revealed that Gates had divested from some of his shares to the point where his stake is now at below 3 percent.
G4S has been criticized by pro-Palestinian advocates of profiting from Israel’s military regime in the West Bank. According to a report in the British daily Independent, G4S has been accused of providing surveillance equipment at Israeli-manned checkpoints in the West Bank.
Commercial ties with Israel that are seen as strengthening its hold on the disputed territories has become a contentious issue in Europe over the course of recent months.
Last year, the European Union published guidelines limiting interaction with Israeli entities beyond the pre-1967 lines. The guidelines "reiterate the long-held position that bilateral agreements with Israel do not cover the territory that came under Israel's administration in June 1967.
Last year, the company announced it is planning to quit key contracts in Israel amid protests against its involvement in West Bank settlements.
"The company employs 6,000 people in Israel, where it provides and maintains screening equipment for several West Bank military checkpoints. It also manages security systems at the controversial Ofer Prison in the Occupied West Bank. But with sporadic international protests continuing both outside the FTSE 100’s headquarters in London and internationally, the company said it would exit the contracts covering Ofer, the checkpoints and the West Bank police headquarters when they terminate in 2015," the Financial Times reported.