Palestinian groups call on Gates Foundation to divest from Israeli prison contractor G4S

A G4S subvertisment in London (source)

Palestine Place

Palestinian rights groups on Thursday launched a petition targeting the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the largest private foundations in the world.

As also explained in a separate press release, Addameer, a Palestinian prisoner advocacy organization, and the Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) are calling on the Gates Foundation to divest from G4S, a British-Danish security company that is deeply complicit in Israel’s military prison system.

The press release was endorsed by an additional 121 Palestinian and international organizations.

According to the petition, G4S is “at the heart of [Israel’s prison] system, installing and running security systems at Israeli jails.”

The firm also provides security at Ofer Military Court, an Israeli prison near Ramallah in the occupied West Bank. Ofer’s “sole purpose … is to imprison Palestinians, including hundreds of children and human rights defenders each year,” the petition added.  

Ring Hollow

The Gates Foundation works by providing grant programs for the areas of global health, global development and betterment programs in the United States.

In 2014 annual letter for the foundation, Bill Gates wrote that “income and other measures of human welfare are rising everywhere.”

The letter placed a heavy focus on the welfare of children in Thailand, Afghanistan and countries across Africa, among other parts of the world.

“Melinda and I are disgusted by the fact that six million children died last year,” Gates wrote. “We all have the chance to create a world where extreme poverty is the exception rather than the rule, and where all children have the same chance to thrive, no matter where they’re born.”

But the Gates’ commitment to equality for all kids must ring hollow for Palestinian children, who are routinely harassed, detained, arrested and imprisoned simply because they were born Palestinian.

In June 2013, the charity purchased $170 million in G4S shares, making it one of the largest shareholders, as reported by Adri Nieuwhof in The Electronic Intifada.

From the more than 5,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli lockup, Defence for Children International – Palestine Section (DCI-Palestine) observed that at least 230 were children as of February 2014.  

Human rights groups such as Addameer and DCI-Palestine have documented several cases of physical and verbal abuse in Israeli military prisons and detention centers, including instances of torture.

In November 2013, an Israeli interrogator threatened to use a broomstick to sexually assault Othman, a 14-year-old Palestinian boy detained in occupied East Jerusalem. As I blogged for The Electronic Intifada at the time, the interrogator also threatened to demolish Othman’s home and subsequently forced him to sign a confession in Hebrew, a language he does not read.

Afford divestment

The petition adds that Gates enjoys a personal wealth of $76 billion. According to its website, the Gates Foundation also had an endowment of $38.3 billion as of June 2013.

Both Gates and his foundation, the petition points out, are able to afford divestment from G4S and its complicity in Israel’s systematic violation of Palestinian rights.

The full text of the petition is reproduced below:

British private security company G4S helps the Israeli government to run prisons at which Palestinian political prisoners are detained.

Right now, there are more than 5,000 Palestinians in Israeli jails, including 183 children. Human rights organisations have documented widespread torture, including of children, and Palestinians are often held without trial indefinitely.

Inside the prisons, Palestinian political prisoners suffer from severe overcrowding, insufficient quality and quantity of food, medical neglect, isolation, and regular attacks from Israeli Special Forces. G4S is at the heart of this system, installing and running security systems at Israeli jails.

In June 2013, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the largest private foundation in the world, purchased shares in G4S worth $172m, making it one of the company’s biggest shareholders.

The Gates Foundation says that it is “guided by the belief that every life has equal value” and that it uses its investments to fund projects that “help all people lead healthy, productive lives.”

But through its holdings in G4S, the Gates Foundation is legitimising and profiting from Israel’s use of torture, mass incarceration and arbitrary arrest to discourage Palestinians from opposing Israel’s apartheid policies.

Last February, the Israeli military arrested Palestinian student Arafat Jaradat. Arafat was tortured in the Al Jalameh interrogation centre, where G4S installed and maintains the security systems. Just seven days after his arrest, he was found dead in a cell in another prison that G4S helps to run with three broken ribs, severe bruising all over his body and blood in his nose and mouth. He left behind a pregnant wife and two children.

By working so directly in support of Israel’s prison system, G4S is complicit in Israel’s violations of the Geneva Convention, Article 76 of which prohibits the transfer of prisoners from occupied territory into the territory of the occupier.

G4S also provides security for Ofer Military Court in the West Bank, the sole purpose of which is to imprison Palestinians, including hundreds of children and human rights defenders each year. Israel’s military courts have a conviction rate of over 99 percent and serve an important element in maintaining Israel’s occupation.

All across the world, universities, banks, charities and trade unions have cut links with G4S because of their role in Israel’s abhorrent prison system.

With a personal wealth of $76 billion dollars, Bill Gates was just named the richest man in the world. Surely his foundation can afford not to invest in grave human rights abuses?

Tell Bill Gates to divest now!


Patrick Strickland

Patrick Strickland's picture

Patrick O. Strickland is an independent journalist and frequent contributor at The Electronic Intifada. He is presently working on his first book for the London-based publishing house Zed Books. See his in-depth coverage for EI.