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North Carolina county takes step towards dropping contract with occupation-linked company G4S

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A North Carolina county seems set to drop private company G4S’ contract to provide security for libraries, parking lots and other municipal buildings. The move by Durham County commissioners followed a months-long campaign by a coalition of activists who criticized G4S, a British-Danish company, for its ties to the Israeli occupation.

On Monday night, Durham County officials decided to spur their years-long contract with G4S, opting to open up a new process for choosing how to secure municipal facilities. G4S could obtain that contract again, though activists in Durham have vowed to try to stop that from happening.

The North Carolina Jewish Voice for Peace chapter says that Durham County would be the first municipality to cut off ties to G4S in the U.S.

“The reason they were receptive is because there was so much outcry,” said Gabriel Baldasare, an activist and life-long resident of Durham. “They felt the pressure from our e-mails and our phone calls and the speaking at meetings.”

G4S is a global private security company that works with the Israeli, British and U.S. governments. It has come under fire from the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement for providing security services to the Israeli prison system, which locks up thousands of Palestinians. Earlier this year, G4S said it would end its dealings in Israel in the next three years.

In Britain, G4S has been harshly criticized for its role in the death of Jimmy Mubenga, an immigrant who died in detention. Three G4S guards are on trial for his death.

The contract that G4S lost in Durham was worth about $1 million annually.

“It could set a precedent for other communities that contract with G4S,” said Ahmed Jitan, a Palestinian who lives in Durham and who campaigned against the contract.

Durham County officials did not cite the company’s role in Israel as the reason for why they were dropping the contract. Instead, they said that municipal security was too disorganized and that the county needed a centralized system, according to the Durham Herald-Sun. The county and G4S did not return requests for comment.

Since 2005, G4S has provided security in Durham County. But starting in July of this year, the company was placed on a month to month contract. That decision followed lobbying by those involved in the Durham Drop G4S Campaign, which includes Jewish Voice for Peace, the Muslim American Public Affairs Council, NC Peace Action and more. The coalition wrote a letter to Durham County over the summer expressing concern that “Durham County is unintentionally helping to fund human rights abuses around the world through its contract with G4S.”

In interviews, activists expressed concern that G4S guards had arrest powers and could look up outstanding warrants for Durham residents.

“We can barely hold our public officials accountable for racial profiling, so how can we expect to hold a private company accountable?” asked Jitan.

Durham County, which includes the city of Durham, is a liberal area in North Carolina. But Durham city’s police force has been criticized for disproportionately stopping black drivers. Last month, following pressure from activists, the city said it would require police to give drivers they pulled over forms telling them they did not have to allow a search.

In June, the Gates Foundation and the United Methodist Church dumped its investments in G4S.

About Alex Kane

Alex Kane is a freelance journalist who focuses on Israel/Palestine and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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10 Responses

  1. just
    November 28, 2014, 4:09 pm

    Go Durham County– drop them and lead the way!

    Thank you to all of the NC activists of conscience.

  2. Ellen
    November 29, 2014, 3:33 pm

    Not too far away in Greensboro, NC the lunch counter protest started. This was one of the catalysts in the Civil Rights movement, but even more so, it is marked as the real start of the student movement of the 1960’s. The causes expanded to the anti war movement and student rebellions (for whatever) in the late 60’s , but this was the start:

    Dred Scott is buried in Ferguson, MO. History has a way of working….

  3. ivri
    November 30, 2014, 9:32 am

    So there is after all a place in the US that sees things that way. Well, what can I say, it does not leave me desperate

  4. Walid
    November 30, 2014, 9:59 pm

    While Europe is cutting back in dealing with G4S because of its operation in the Israel and the settlements, Arab countries are giving this company more and more business. Even in Lebanon that’s still at war with Israel, G4S is allowed to operate freely. Al-Akhbar has put up a few articles against this company in the last couple of year, here are excerpts from one of them from last year:

    Saudi Hires Occupation-Friendly Company for Hajj Security
    By: Orouba Othman
    Published Monday, October 7, 2013

    This year, the mandatory Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca, or hajj, will compound the Palestinians’ woes. Palestinian pilgrims will be greeted by a company that assists in their repression – and even torture – under the Israeli occupation regime. Indeed, hajj this year will be brought to you by none other than G4S.

    This is not the first time that the Saudi government has hired the private security firm, which has recruited a staggering 700,000 to provide hajj-related services this year, according to exclusive information obtained by Al-Akhbar. Most of the leaked reports indicate that security for the hajj season since 2010 has been entrusted to al-Majal G4S, an affiliate of the parent company G4S.

    The private security contractor has also been implicated in enabling the torture of administrative detainees in Palestine, including children, according to BDS activist Zaid Shuaibi.The CEO of al-Majal G4S is a former security official in Saudi named Khaled Baghdadi. The Saudi subsidiary is fully owned by the British-Danish firm.

    … The Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaign has not been sitting idly by. In a press conference on Wednesday, October 2, the campaign sent a clear message to the Saudi government, urging it to terminate the contract with the company that happens to provide equipment and security services to protect Israeli settlements, occupation checkpoints, and police facilities. The private security contractor has also been implicated in enabling the torture of administrative detainees in Palestine, including children, according to BDS activist Zaid Shuaibi.

    G4S in Israeli Prisons and Interrogation Centers

    G4S’ subsidiary in Israel (Hashmira) was awarded a contract with the Israeli Prison Service in July 2007 to supply equipment and security services that enable violations of Articles 49 and 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The company provides security systems and centralized control systems to the Hasharon-Ramonim prison, which contains a section for Palestinian political prisoners.

    G4S has installed a central command room in Megiddo Prison, in addition to supplying a wide array of security services to the Damon and Ketziot prisons. In Ofer, the prison where more than 1,500 Palestinians are detained – mostly administrative prisoners – G4S has also installed a central command room and provided protection through peripheral defense systems on the walls surrounding the prison. The company routinely supplies systems for command and control, IT, CCTV, and communications to Israeli prisons.

    In the Jalma and Maskoubieh interrogation centers, which are also serviced by G4S, not even children are spared from torture. It is in one of those centers that Palestinian detainee Arafat Jaradat was tortured to death earlier this year. There, too, Luay al-Ashqar, a Palestinian administrative detainee, became permanently paralyzed in his left leg when he suffered a triple fracture in his spine during his detention.

    The scope of G4S’ operations and profits in the Arab world is nearly six times the size of its operations and profits in the Jewish state. In truth, its market share in Saudi alone is about 10 times its share in Israel. Under Israeli military law, prisoners can be detained for investigation for 60 days without access to a lawyer, which means that lawyers cannot witness interrogation methods used against their clients. All these practices and more are facilitated by G4S.

    Checkpoints, Settlements, and Police Stations

    According to a report by Who Profits, “G4S Israel supplied luggage scanning equipment and full body scanners to several checkpoints in the West Bank, including the Qalandia checkpoint, the Bethlehem checkpoint…[and] the Erez checkpoint in Gaza.” The company also provides security equipment to Israeli police facilities in the E1 zone of the West Bank, near the settlement of Maaleh Adumim.

    Meanwhile, G4S-serviced checkpoints make life extremely difficult for more than 23,000 Palestinians who work in Jerusalem and the territories of 1948 (Israel proper), who have to wait and are often delayed as they undergo humiliating inspection each morning. G4S also operates in the Israeli settlements, catering to businesses and private citizens.

    Europe Reacts

    BDS campaigns have been able to achieve some success in Europe while Saudi Arabia continues to ignore appeals to terminate contracts with G4S. The company lost several contracts in Europe, including with Oslo University back in July after pressure by student groups.

    In the United Kingdom, the East London Teachers Association put pressure on local authorities to terminate contracts with G4S, which provides services to more than 25 schools in the British capital. Campaigns to boycott G4S have spread to Denmark, Sweden, Belgium, and the rest of Europe. In April this year, G4S failed to renew a 2008 contract to provide security services for parliament buildings in Europe.

    G4S in the Arab World

    The scope of G4S’ operations and profits in the Arab world is nearly six times the size of its operations and profits in the Jewish state. In truth, its market share in Saudi alone is about 10 times its share in Israel.

    The company is active in 16 Arab countries, with a turnover of 501 million British pounds ($805 million) last year, or 6 percent of its total revenues. It employs nearly 44,000, who work in operations ranging from providing security for airports in Baghdad and Dubai, Arab embassies, various Arab sports events, as well as protection for private businesses.

    In comparison, G4S earns about 100 million pounds ($160 million) from its Israeli operations, or 1 percent of its total yearly revenues.

  5. ivri
    December 1, 2014, 3:48 am

    People fail to understand that globalization has already gone too far to make boycotts effective, especially of multinational companies. There is an intricate web of connections and affiliations there as well as multi-positioning and naming around the world. You cannot roll back globalization and all you can have is sporadic boycott acts that are too marginal for these modern-times behemoths to make any real impact.

    • Annie Robbins
      December 1, 2014, 1:47 pm

      globalization has already gone too far to make boycotts effective

      do you have a source for that info or is your theory?

      • ivri
        December 1, 2014, 2:36 pm

        Well, it`s a mix of the two because while it comes at this moment from my head it is also based on accumulated knowledge- but even more importantly it`s pretty logical.

      • Annie Robbins
        December 1, 2014, 3:03 pm

        so that would be a no on sources. a “mix of the two” what? your “accumulated knowledge” of boycotts and globalization?

        it`s pretty logical.

        what’s pretty logical is recognizing most people think their own opinions are logical and those who don’t agree are just “People [who] fail to understand”.

        ;) good day.

      • ivri
        December 1, 2014, 3:46 pm

        Well, there is no need to denigrate others with different views. Let`s not forget the basics. Once upon a time a debate between people was that each stated what is logical to him/her and the others, the listeners or readers, had to decide what convince them more (and in some cases even the other side conceded).

      • Annie Robbins
        December 1, 2014, 4:12 pm

        sorry, not my intent. i just assumed by the implication of your framing that there had been some kind of study or history of boycotts not being effective in the globalized world or something (indeed govs believe it’s effective and still apply rigorously, like sanctions against iran). when in fact i can’t recall ever hearing anything like that. for me it was a brand new concept. so when you said “people fail to understand” it was as if it was some established idea or concept that people couldn’t wrap their head around. but how could they wrap their head around something they’ve not yet heard of?

        but that’s not really the case unless someone makes the claim in the first place as you have now done. but it should be backed up w/some kind of data don’t you think? unless it’s just a hunch of yours. that seems to be your point when you talk about not forgetting the “basics”; “each stated what is logical to him/her and the others, the listeners or readers, had to decide what convince them more”

        so by all means ivri, tell us what informs your “logic”. because it seems to me like even a huge company (for example marine world) can be impacted by masses of people treating it like it has a disease. how can globalization stop that? do you mean like monsanto, where natural seeds become extinct and people have no choice but to eat what the borg makes them eat? do you think that we’re so far down that road citizens have no impact over who gets contracts in their town, city, state or country? i’m interested and all ears, do tell.

        one more thing, assuming your “logic” is correct, why would the state of israel and advocates of israel even bother with countering what’s happening on campuses or make laws in israel designed to punish people active in the bds movement if it couldn’t have an impact? wouldn’t it seem like a very effective way of keeping their advocates busy fussing away on something w/no potential and inadvertently serve the state of israel if that were the case? you’d think israel would be supporting the bds movement if they already knew it would never happen. sort of like building close bridges w/the christian zionist community because they had confidence christ wasn’t going to ever come down and blowup all the jews who didn’t convert. or whatever it is those hagee nutjobs believe.

        or maybe the state of israel is among those who, as you speculated above, just fail to understand how boycotts just don’t work in the age of globalization. or whatever it is you are saying.

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