G4S security devices in Yesh Supermarket, Modi'in Illit settlement, April 2010. (Photo: WhoProfits.org)
Today Palestinians are marking Palestinian Prisoners' Day with mass hunger strikes protesting Israel's practice of detaining political prisoners and abusing the rights of all prisoners. Inside of Israel's detention facilities a reported 1,600 prisoners out of a total 4,700 are on hunger strike. And an additional 2,300 prisoner are refusing all meals. But outside of Israel's prisons, Palestinians are mounting pressure against a private security contractor by calling for boycotts of the company.
This afternoon protestors gathered at Ofer prison located in the West Bank, where in 2007 the Israel's prison department subcontracted services to Hashmira, an Israeli subsidiary of the Danish-British company G4S. As the world's second largest private employer—second to Walmart—G4S is a behemoth. In Israel, G4S services include providing rent-a-cops to settlement grocery stores, and transporting monitoring systems to Israeli prisons, checkpoints and police stations. Due to Hashmira's ongoing role in serving Israel's occupation, it is now the target of a new boycott call issued today by 13 Palestinian civil society organizations including Addameer and the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC):
In light of this increasing campaign of civil disobedience from within the prisons, we demand accountability for all corporations that both enable and directly profit from Israel's continued violations of Palestinian prisoners' rights being committed with impunity. Specifically, we call for action to hold to account G4S, the British-Danish security company whose Israeli subsidiary signed a contract in 2007 with the Israeli Prison Authority to provide security systems for major Israeli prisons. G4S provided systems for the Ketziot and Megiddo prisons, which hold Palestinian political prisoners from occupied Palestinian territory inside Israel in contravention of international law. The company also provided equipment for Ofer prison, located in the occupied West Bank, and for Kishon and Moskobiyyeh detention facilities, at which human rights organizations have documented systematic torture and ill-treatment of Palestinian prisoners, including child prisoners. G4S continues to provide equipment to Israeli prisons.
Moreover, G4S is involved in other aspects of the Israeli apartheid and occupation regime: it has provided equipment and services to Israeli checkpoints in the West Bank that form part of the route of Israel’s illegal Wall and to the terminals isolating the occupied territory of Gaza. G4S has also signed contracts for equipment and services for the West Bank Israeli Police headquarters and to private businesses based in illegal Israeli settlements. A panel of legal experts concluded that G4S may be criminally liable for its activities in support of Israel’s illegal Wall and other violations of international law.
In 2011 WhoProfits published a report on G4S and Hashmira's role in the profiting off of the occupation. From WhoProfits.org:
The company provided the entire security system of the Ktziot Prison and the central control room that monitors all of the security systems of the Megido Prison. The Ktziot Prison and the Megido Prison are incarceration facilities designated for Palestinian political prisoners. These prisons are both located inside Israel.
The company installed a central control room and a perimeter defense system on the walls of the Ofer Prison. The Ofer Prison is an Israeli prison in the occupied territory for Palestinian political prisoners.
The company also provided security systems for the Kishon ("Al-Jalameh") and Jerusalem ("Russian Compound") detention and interrogation facilities. Human rights organizations have collected evidence showing that Palestinian prisoners are regularly subjected to torture in these facilities.
In March 2011, following public pressure in Denmark bolstered by research from WhoProfits, G4S announced they would suspend supplying equipment to Israeli facilities in the West Bank. As a joint British and Danish enterprise, G4S is required to adhere to the legal standards in not only the countries of operation, but also in the U.K. and Denmark. And while Israel does not consider its occupation a violation to the fourth Geneva Convention, Denmark does.
Beyond its work in Israeli prisons, G4S is an international leader in private security. In the U.S., since 2007 the company deports hundreds over 500,000 people to Mexico annually through a contract with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.