Boycott 'not to blame' for G4S West Bank exit

Security company G4S has confirmed it will not renew contracts with Israel to manage West Bank security checkpoints.

But the firm said the decision was made two years ago and denied it followed pressure from anti-Israel groups in recent months.

There have been repeated calls for G4S to pull out of deals which see 6,000 staff provide screening equipment at checkpoints and managing security systems at Ofer prison near Ramallah.

A number of contracts affecting the firm's work in the West Bank expire in 2015 and will not be renewed.

G4S will continue to work with private businesses in Israel, providing traditional security and alarm monitoring services which, a company spokesperson said, are "not discriminatory or controversial, and in fact help to provide safety and security for the general public no matter what their background".

The spokesperson added that G4S had held a full review of its Israel contracts in 2011, following which a decision "to exit contracts" was taken "in line with our own business ethics policy".

Meanwhile, leading cultural figures and academics have written to the BBC demanding it block G4S from bidding for a multi-million pound contract.

Directors Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, playwright Caryl Churchill, and Israeli academics Ilan Pappe and Moshe Machover were among the dozens of signatories of the letter sent to BBC director-general Tony Hall and other senior managers.

They claimed G4S was aiding "the illegal detention of Palestinian prisoners transferred into Israel from the Occupied Territories" and was guilty of "grave misconduct in its complicity in the abuse of human rights".

A BBC spokesman said a response to the letter would be sent in due course. G4S said the company "respects the right of all people to express their views and stage peaceful protests".

A spokesman at the Israeli embassy in London said: "In Israel, G4S's products help prevent suicide bombers from blowing up crowded buses and bustling restaurants; they ensure that convicted terrorists remain under lock and key. If protecting the lives of citizens of the Jewish state is what these so-called protesters find so disturbing, we are unfortunately dealing with a most deplorable expression of the devaluation of human life."

Last updated: 1:45pm, April 25 2013