Bill Gates slammed over links to Israel prison
Palestinian human rights organisations have criticised Bill Gates after it emerged that his charitable foundation is heavily invested in G4S, a private security company that helps Israel run prisons at which Palestinian political prisoners are held without trial and subjected to torture and provides equipment for the checkpoint system connected to the construction of the Wall.
In an open letter to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation published today, Palestinian human rights groups argued that the foundation was undermining international law and its stated commitment to human rights with its $170m investment in the company that makes it one of the company’s biggest shareholders.
British security company G4S has a contract with the Israeli Prison Service to run and install security and management systems at six prisons Palestinian political prisoners, including children, are routinely subjected to torture, according to human rights organisations.
“It is completely unacceptable for a charitable foundation to be investing in a company that participates in gross human rights violations against Palestinian political prisoners. The Gates Foundation talks about every life having equal value, but what about the political prisoners, are their lives not of equal value?” said Sahar Francis, director of Palestinian prisoner and advocacy organisation Addameer.
More than 500 children are ‘are arrested, detained and prosecuted in the Israeli military detention system each year’, according to Defence for Children International – Palestine. Three out of every four of child detainees face physical violence during detention and interrogation, much of which takes place in facilities G4S helps to operate.
Palestinian student and father-of-two Arafat Jaradat died in custody last year after being tortured in Megiddo Prison, a facility that G4S helps to operate.
“Bill Gates is the richest man in the world, why does his charity have to fund itself by profiting from the torture of children and the use of detention without trial?” Francis added.
Israel illegally transfers prisoners from the occupied Palestinian territories to inside Israel despite this being prohibited by Article 76 of the Geneva Convention. Campaigners argue that G4S is complicit in this violation of international law.
A petition that has been backed by 20 Palestinian organisations and more than 100 organisations from across the world has also been launched today. The campaign has been co-launched by the BDS National Committee.
G4S has already lost contracts worth millions of dollars as trade unions and universities and other public bodies in Europe and South Africa cancel their contracts over concerns about the firm’s role in Israel’s prison system.
Hollywood actor Scarlett Johansson was embroiled in controversy and was eventually forced into resigning her role as an Oxfam ambassador earlier this year after she endorsed SodaStream, an Israeli company that manufactures drinks machines in an illegal Israeli settlement. Celebrities including Pink Flyod’s Roger Waters, Massive Attack’s Robert del Naja and Maxi Jazz from Faithless have backed a cultural boycott of Israel.
In April 2012, more than 2,000 Palestinian political prisoners went on hunger strike to protest conditions in Israel’s jails and the use of administrative detention, a form of detention without trial. There are currently three prisoners who remain on hunger strike, two of whom have gone without food for almost 80 days.
Palestinian human rights groups say that Israel uses mass incarceration to dissuade Palestinians from protesting against Israel’s occupation and apartheid policies. Israeli military orders make a whole range of activities illegal, including joining a political party or organising a demonstration.
There are more than 5,000 Palestinian political prisoners currently held in Israeli jails, including 183 children and 175 held under administrative detention, a form of detention without trial that Israel uses to hold Palestinians on secret information indefinitely.
BBC says no to occupation profiteer G4S after major campaign
A campaign which was joined by notable figures including film directors Ken Loach and Mike Leigh, and novelist Ahdaf Soueif, calling on the BBC not to award a multi-million pound security contract toG4S appears to have been successful.
This month, the £80 million ($132 million) contract to provide “manned guarding and security services” across all the BBC’s premises was awarded to G4S’ rival, First Security. The three-year contract, which has an option to be extended for two extra years, comes into effect on 1 April.
The campaign to block any successful bid from G4S was launched early last year when the bidding process was announced, and was co-ordinated by the Stop G4S Network.
In April, the Network sent an open letter to BBC director general, Tony Hall, pointing out that: “G4S directly supports Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands through provision of guards to illegal settlements and electronic systems in checkpoints as part of the illegal ‘Apartheid Wall.’”
The letter continued: “It supplies security services to prisons and detention centers within Israel which hold Palestinian prisoners illegally transferred from the occupied territories in violation of the Fouth Geneva Convention. These include children, despite the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Israel is a signatory.”
The letter was signed by more than 100 people, including Loach, Leigh and Soueif.
Many patrons of Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), a member of the Stop G4S Network, also signed on, including the author William Dalrymple, poet and writer Benjamin Zephaniah, and member of parliament Jeremy Corbyn.
Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, and Football Beyond Borders were among the groups to add their signatures to a letter which demonstrated the strength of feeling against such a lucrative contract going to a firm so complicit in Israel’s human rights violations against Palestinians.
Meanwhile, more than 2,000 people signed PSC’s petition to the BBC, which called on the organization not to spend licence fee-payers’ money — the compulsory charge paid by most UK households to finance the public broadcaster — on a deal with G4S.
She said: “We are delighted that the BBC has taken on board the concerns of their viewers and listeners and not awarded this lucrative contract to G4S.
“The BBC must be well aware by now of the controversy that surrounds G4S’ involvement in human rights abuses against Palestinians. For the BBC to associate itself with such a company would have been deeply damaging to the BBC’s reputation.”
G4S’ role in Palestine is not the only stain on its record, however. Today it was announced that three men who worked as security guards for G4S are to be charged with manslaughter over the death at Heathrow airport of Jimmy Mubenga, an Angolan man who was being forcibly deported in 2010.
Mubenga, 46, died after falling ill as the aircraft was about to take off. He had been restrained by the G4S security guards.
G4S is also at the at the center of allegations over rioting and the death of a detaineeon Manus Island in Papua New Guinea, where the Australian government has hired the firm to operate an offshore detention facility for asylum seekers.
The awarding of the contract is the first time the BBC has chosen one national security provider to cover all its premises. A BBC spokesperson confirmed to The Electronic Intifada that the organization does not have any separate contracts with G4S.
The BBC’s decision is the latest in a series of blows to G4S, whose annual general meeting in 2013 was upstaged by activists from PSC, War on Want and Stop G4S, who posed as shareholders in order to confront board members with their company’s involvement in human rights abuses.
In December 2013, the Dutch trade union, Abvakabo, severed its links with G4S. Three months earlier, the Dutch Green Left party (GroenLinks) announced it would no longer make use of G4S security services for its national office in 2014 due to the company’s “activities in Palestinian territory occupied by Israel.”
In the last four months in the UK, universities and student unions in London, Kent, Southampton and Dundee have severed or voted to sever links with G4S, a move replicated in Norway by the universities of Bergen and Oslo.
And so the BBC’s decision highlights what G4S must already know — that the campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions is growing and working and no amount of slick PR will be able to gloss over the reputational damage caused by association with Israel’s human rights abuses.
G4S equips the apartheid wall, Israel confirms
The British-Danish security giant G4S has become the target of rights activists in different countries because of its provision of services to Israeli prisons, military checkpoints and to firms in illegal settlements in the West Bank.
In 2008, G4S Israel advertised its involvement with Israeli miitary checkpoints on its website. The text on the left of the screenshot above reads: “Systems for checking persons, manufactured by Safeview USA, first of their kind, were installed at the Erez checkpoint. The systems are in operational use by the army and enable the performance of full scans of the human body.”
G4S confirmed it had provided security equipment with “associated maintenance services” to the Israeli police, prison service and defense ministry, in a 21 December 2010 letter to the Business and Human Rights Resource Center in London. At the same time, the company claimed it did “not control” — and was not “necessarily aware” — where its security equipment was deployed “as it may be moved around the country.”
G4S’s claim that it did not know where its security equipment was deployed sounds implausible. In 2008, the research project Who Profits? found evidence on G4S Israel’s website that the firm supplied equipment to the checkpoints of Bethlehem, Qalandiya near Ramallah, Irtah near Tulkarem, and Erez near Gaza. Who Profits? published the information in a March 2011 report on G4S. Although the information is no longer available on the company’s website, the screenshots capturing the pages with the information can be found in the report by Who Profits?
The text on the left of the screenshot above reads: “Personal luggage scanning machines manufactured by Rapiscan USA were installed in the Seam Zone crossings [checkpoints which are located along the route of the wall] including the Qalandiya crossing, the Bethlehem crossing, the Sha’ar Efraim [Irtah] crossing and more.”
In order to obtain more clarity about G4S’s involvement in Israel’s military checkpoints, Who Profits? filed a request under the Israeli Freedom of Information Act. A reply from the defense ministry in July 2012 confirmed that “G4S is one of the companies that provides inspection [services] and scanning equipment to all the Israeli checkpoints along the separation wall [in the West Bank],” wrote Who Profits? in an email to me on 19 November 2012.
In an interview with The Electronic Intifada, London lawyer Simon Natas addressed G4S’s role in Israel’s violations of international law. The provision of technical equipment and maintenance for checkpoints is particuarly problematic, he said. The International Court of Justice found that the construction of the wall on Palestinian land was illegal in 2004. Excerpts of the interview follow below:
The court talked not only about the wall, but about the wall and its associated regime. It considered that “the construction of the wall and its associated regime create a fait accompli on the ground that could well become permanent in which case and notwithstanding the formal characterization of the wall by Israel it would be tantamount to de facto annexation.”
When one talks about the associated regime of the wall, one certainly talks about the checkpoints, because the wall cannot operate without checkpoints.
So the checkpoints are necessary in order to allow Israelis access to the West Bank [and] to prevent Palestinians from passing the other way. If you are providing the technical facilities like scanners and other equipment, and you also have a contract to look after them, to fix them when they go wrong, to ensure that they are working properly, then you are assisting in that process by ensuring that the checkpoints can effectively regulate the movement of people through the wall.
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