Friday, June 05, 2020

G4S: Privatizing security and profiting from the Israeli occupation

By Anna Germaine - March 28, 2013
Section: [Main News] [BDS]
Tags: [BDS] [G4S] [West Bank]

Photo by John Space

G4S (formerly G4S Securior) is the world’s largest security company and third largest private sector employer, with its headquarters based in Crawley, England and over 657,000 employees around the world. 

It also actively profits off of Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

Most recently, G4S Israel—the Israeli branch of G4S—has come under fire for supplying security services to the Meggido Detention Facility in Northern Israel, the same Israeli prison where it is reported that Palestinian prisoner Arafat Jaradat was tortured to death last month. However, this is only the latest example of several ways that G4S Israel actively supplies, profits from and cements the Israeli occupation of Palestine. In addition to extensively supplying Israeli prisons, G4S also supplies the extensive security system of illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank and military checkpoints. 

Israeli Prisons

In 2007 G4S signed a contract with the Israeli Prison Authority (IPA) creating a cozy relationship with several Israeli prisons—making it the chief security services provider to the Jalameh, Ketziot, Damon and Meggido prisons inside of Israel, as well as the Russian Compound in Jerusalem. This means that the unjust and inhumane policies and the very systems that allow the prison to operate are enabled by G4S. 

In addition to the aforementioned Israeli prisons, G4S has also equipped Ofer Prison—a large detention facility outside of Ramallah specifically renown for holding Palestinian political prisoners—with a big brother-like central command room from which the entire facility can be controlled. 

All video surveillance of prisoners, surveillance outside the prison, and visitor surveillance of families and equipment to facilitate their security checks—which often involve invasive full-body scans—is supplied by G4S Systems. In addition to supporting this extreme and humiliating level of security, G4S Systems knowingly supplies Israeli jails that hold Palestinian prisoners even though, in addition to this being expressly prohibited by international law, Israeli jails are renown for perpetuating extreme human rights abuses on Palestinian inmates and detainees. Although the human rights abuses of the prison facilities it equips have been brought to the company’s attention on several occasions, G4S has yet to abandon any of its contracts. In a statement, G4S claimed that, 

“To ensure that our business practices remain in line with our own Business Ethics Policy, we will aim to exit a number of contracts which involve the servicing of security equipment at the barrier checkpoints, prisons and police stations in the West Bank. We will aim to complete this exit as soon as possible, but also recognise that we have contractual obligations to our customers which we must take into consideration.”

However, this statement—in addition to prioritizing corporate contracts over human rights—bore no mention to G4S’s enormous involvement in illegal Israeli settlements. 

Israeli Settlement Security

In addition to supplying Israel’s prisons with top of the line security and surveillance systems, G4S Israel also supplies surveillance technology to businesses in Israel’s illegal settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Any extensive network of surveillance cameras or metal detectors in Ma’ale Adumim, Modi’in Illit and Har Adar is the work of G4S Israel.

According to the Guardian, the Jewish population in the West Bank is growing more than twice as fast as the population of Israel. Despite many arguments that Israel’s settlement enterprise is the suicide of the two state solution and the peace process, and the obvious hardship that these often violent colonization projects have wrought on Palestinian communities in the West Bank, settlements continue to expand. Israeli settlements—illegal according to international law—have created extensive controversy in the West Bank, making many of their resident “settlers” afraid of violence from the surrounding Palestinian communities. For their protection, Israeli settlements are equipped with bulletproof glass, armed guards and extensive surveillance systems—these surveillance systems are the work of G4S Israel. 

In East Jerusalem alone, the budget for security is 70 million NIS yearly—and this number multiplies when it is applied to security throughout the West Bank. Any company supplying these settlements with security services—including G4S Israel—profits through the settlement industry, and specifically, through settlement expansion. 

The only logical way that settlements can exist—and expand—is through normalizing a massive and threatening security apparatus that legitimizes their existence. This is exactly what G4S enables, all the while ignoring the enormous consequences to Palestinian life and livelihood that Israeli settlements have wrought. 

Military Checkpoints

G4S Israel also specializes in luggage and full-body scanners, and is responsible for those at Qalandia Checkpoint between Jerusalem and Ramallah, Checkpoint 300 between Jerusalem and Bethlehem, Irtah checkpoint south of Tulkarem and the gigantic airport-like facility that serves as the Erez checkpoint in Gaza.  

Many of these checkpoints are built illegally on annexed land or within the Apartheid Wall that, though it claims to follow the Green Line, often strays from the exact boundary to actively annex Palestine’s most fertile and desirable land for Israel. Once again, G4S has made itself distinctly part of this system—profiting off of the extensive surveillance that makes a simple commute into an intimidating ordeal for so many Palestinians. Through equipping military checkpoints with security scanners, G4S actively supports Israel’s constant suspicion and criminalization of all Palestinians.

Through privatizing security with companies like G4S, the Israeli government is outsourcing the foundations of the occupation to corporate powers—making the occupation both the responsibility of the Israeli government and a private company. On one hand, this means that it is more difficult to prosecute Israel for human rights abuses. As a private company, their actions are far less in the public eye and, though their orders are given to them by the Israeli government, they do not face the same accountability for their role in the occupation as if they had been Israeli soldiers or policemen who had acted out of line. 

However, their status as a multi-national, private corporation makes them able to be the target of a boycott movement that would not work were they a government institution. Over the years, this boycott movement has drawn attention to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and specifically G4S’s role in cementing it.  

Boycott Movement

Although G4S continues to work in Israel relatively unhindered, their support of the institutions of Israel’s occupation has lost them business in other countries. Largely, this is thanks to G4S being a central and well-researched target of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign. 

Though it is difficult to cause a serious dent to the profits of a company as profitable as G4S, many of these BDS victories have been significant. In Denmark, a bank and several large NGOs cut their ties completely from the formerly jointly Danish-British multi-national corporation, intensifying the BDS movement throughout all of Denmark. Perhaps its largest victory came in April 17 2012, on the same day as the Palestinian Prisoners’ Day, in which the European Union (EU) declined to renew their contract with G4S, specifically citing their role in Israel’s unlawful incarceration of Palestinian prisoners.

However, although G4S has lost contracts and profits over their support of Israeli Apartheid, they have yet to dismantle any of the immoral systems that institutionalize it. 

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