Kuwait’s Foreign Minister Sabah Al-Khalid al-Sabah speaks during a news conference with his Iraqi counterpart Ibrahim al-Jaafari (R) in Baghdad October 19, 2014. REUTERS/Ahmed Saad
The government of Kuwait has announced that it will not deal with 50 companies due to their role in illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory in a move being welcomed by campaigners as a landmark success for the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
The blacklisted companies include some of the top corporate targets of the BDS movement, such as Volvo, Heidelberg Cement, Dexia, Pizzarotti, Alstom as well as Veolia. Veolia was recently excluded from a $750m contract, and “all future contracts,” by Kuwaiti authorities over its role in the illegal Jerusalem Light Rail project and other projects that serve illegal Israeli settlements.
The blacklisted companies are expected to be excluded from contracts worth billions of dollars, especially if other Arab countries take similar steps.
According to media reports, the Kuwaiti Ministry of Commerce and Industry is also investigating the Kuwaiti operations of G4S, the British security company that secures Israeli military checkpoints and colonies and helps Israel run prisons at which Palestinian political prisoners are tortured, with a view to cancelling its license to operate if it does not terminate its participation in Israeli violations of international law.
Zaid Shuaibi, a spokesperson for the Palestinian BDS National Committee, the largest coalition of Palestinian trade unions, parties, NGOs and popular committees that leads the global BDS movement, said:
“This landmark decision means that international companies will now pay an even heavier price for participating in Israeli violations of international law.
“As European banks and pension funds continue to divest from Israel’s occupation and companies such as Veolia and G4S lose billions of dollars as a result of sustained, effective grassroots campaigning, many firms will now be wondering whether supporting Israel’s regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid is good for business,” said Shuaibi.
Many European governments have taken steps to discourage firms from having economic links to the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, but this is the first time a government has decided to boycott international companies over their role in illegal Israeli settlements.
The Kuwaiti move, which follows lobbying by the Palestinian BDS National Committee and its partners in Kuwait, implements a decision of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), taken at a summit of foreign ministers at the height of the Israeli massacre in Gaza in August, to “impose political and economic sanctions on Israel, and boycott the corporations that operate in the colonial settlements built on occupied Palestinian territory.”
The Arab Summit of 2006 in Khartoum unanimously called for punitive measures against the companies, including Veolia and Alstom, involved in Israel’s colonization of Jerusalem.
The BNC has been working closely with BDS Kuwait since 2010 on advocating for accountability measures against international corporations that are complicit in Israel’s violations of international law and Palestinian rights.
Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of the BDS movement and a member of the BNC secretariat, commented on this unprecedented BDS victory saying, “We warmly welcome this important decision in support of the Palestinian struggle for freedom, justice and self determination, and we urge the Kuwaiti government to implement it in full, including by cancelling any existing contracts with the blacklisted companies, as well as others that are also complicit, and ensuring that state money is not invested in any company, such as G4S, that enables Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights and international law.”
“In the wake of Israel’s massacre in Gaza, which was only made possible with the support of international governments and companies, we urge all governments, especially Arab League and OIC members, to impose sanctions on Israel and take action against the complicit corporations that profit from Israel’s occupation and crimes,” added Barghouti.
International companies that participate in Israel’s violations of international law have faced increasing pressure as a result of BDS campaigning in recent years.
Veolia recently announced that it intends to sell off large parts of its business in Israel after boycott campaigns cost the company more than $23bn – not counting Veolia’s latest losses in Kuwait — in lost potential contracts, although the French multinational will still remain involved in the illegal Jerusalem Light Rail Project.
British security giant G4S has pledged to end some aspects of its involvement in torture-ridden Israel’s prison system and checkpoints after trade unions, NGOs, universities and other public bodies cancelled contracts with the company.
The Presbyterian Church (USA) voted in June to divest from Caterpillar, Motorola Solutions, and Hewlett Packard over their role in Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory.
In January, Dutch pension giant PGGM announced it was divesting from five Israeli banks due to their support for illegal Israeli settlements. In February, it emerged that the sovereign fund of Luxembourg had taken a similar step, excluding nine Israeli banks and firms from its portfolio. In the months that followed, banks and pension funds in Norway, the Netherlands, the US and Denmark made similar announcements.