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G4S in Israel: The Soldiers of Global Occupation

By Joe Dyke and Tarek Abboud | Al Akhbar | June 25, 2012

You may not know much about G4S, but they almost certainly know something about you. The world’s largest security firm, operating in over 125 countries and employing over 650,000 staff worldwide, are believed to be the second largest private employer worldwide, behind only Walmart. Globally they are responsible for security at over 150 airports, countless private companies, they do police work in the UK and are the main security firm for the 2012 London Olympics – so they make it their business to know who you are.

Known for their ruthless competitiveness, the British-Danish firm have recently been seeking to expand outside of their traditional base in Europe and the US. The Middle East is one of their main targets, with operations in the region worth $410 million and with just shy of 50,000 employees.

The contracts the secretive company have officially declared include private security for airports in Iraq, the UAE, and Qatar, while they are also known to guard US and European Embassies in countries across the Arab world, as well as in Afghanistan.

But G4S has a far darker side than the official brochures would have you believe. First there were the accusations that they were involved in the abuse of British detainees. More recently there has been damning evidence of their role in the illegal Israeli occupation of the West Bank.

A report from the WhoProfits? group, which aims to draw attention to the private companies making money from the ongoing occupation of historic Palestine, identifies four key roles that G4S carries out in the West Bank.“First, the company has provided security equipment and services to incarceration facilities holding Palestinian political prisoners inside Israel and in the occupied West Bank. Second, the company offers security services to businesses in settlements. Third, the company has provided equipment and maintenance services to Israeli military checkpoints in the West Bank. Finally, the company has also provided security systems for the Israeli police headquarters in the West Bank.”

Of these the first – their role in Israeli prisons both in the West Bank and Israel – has attracted the most criticism. Sahar Francis, head of the Palestinian prisoners’ charity Addameer, points out that the prisons in Israel and support for such institutions, are illegal under international law.

“According to the fourth Geneva Convention the occupying state cannot move occupied people – which means here the Palestinians – from the Occupied Territories to inside the occupying country,” she says.

Francis describes the conditions that Palestinian prisoners are often subjected to inside these prisons. “They face strip searches, isolation, attacks, and bans on buying stuff from the canteen,” she said. “Since last year they totally cancelled all the education systems – they are not allowed to study now and they can’t get books easily – and they are often banned from family visits, especially those from Gaza,” she added.

Europe Fights While Arabs Stay Silent

It is perhaps surprising that it is European politicians, rather than Arab ones, the majority of whom officially boycott Israel, who have led the campaign against G4S’ involvement in the occupation.

Until earlier this year G4S were responsible for the security of the buildings of the European Parliament but following a campaign led by Danish MEP Margrete Auken the contract was given to a rival firm. Officially the deal was not renewed, but Auken thinks the movement raised the profile high enough that the decision was inevitable.“I think it was clever of parliament officials to use this argument (that it was not renewed), otherwise they could have run into lots of court cases. I think that they would have hated to renew the contract with G4S after the campaign,” she tells Al-Akhbar.

While the company’s 2011 annual report acknowledges “criticism” of their role in the West Bank, Auken says she was amazed by the lack of interest from senior figures at G4S in their role in aiding an illegal occupation.

“We had meetings with G4S and they could not see the problem. It was as if they were not really aware that the settlements were illegal,” she says.

“When we told them ‘you are working for an occupying power in an occupied territory’ it was as though they thought it was open to political debate. But according to international law and EU law they (the settlements) are illegal. The EU considers the occupation illegal, the settlements illegal, the wall is illegal and having Palestinian prisoners in Israeli prisons is illegal,” she says.

The EU campaign stands in stark contrast to the silence of Arab states, even those that supposedly boycott Israel. The company’s annual review boasts about its role in Iraq, saying it is proud to have won a huge government contract to provide aviation security for the airport in Baghdad. In fact the Middle East is identified by the group as one of its key areas of growth in coming years.

“In the Middle East there was double-digit organic growth (excluding Iraq) – an excellent performance across the region. Qatar and Egypt performed particularly strongly, with Qatar helped by the new airport contract…In UAE, the business is being challenged by a shortage of labor supply and the general business environment in Dubai which has impacted our security systems business, but was successful at winning contracts such as Dubai Airport and in event security,” it says.

While Egypt, Jordan, Qatar and others have normalized relations with Israel to a greater or lesser degree, Lebanon is one of the few countries in the region that supposedly maintains the Arab League boycott of Israel with any severity. The terms of the boycott declare that businesses in non-Arab countries that operate in Israel should be prevented from doing so inside Lebanese borders.

While this rule is often largely ignored for Western conglomerates, Haitham Bawab, from the Lebanese Ministry of Economy’s Boycott department, thinks the nature of G4S’ involvement in Israeli jails means they should not be allowed to operate in the country.

“Allowing G4S to operate in Lebanon goes against Lebanon’s boycott rules. Following our investigations, we sent the main office a letter, asking for the banning of the company to be discussed during the upcoming Boycott Conference.”

Asked what sanctions were under consideration, Bawab said they “would include banning G4S from working on Lebanese territories and prohibiting Lebanese public and private companies and the government from working with G4S. In addition, no G4S products would be allowed to enter Lebanon.”

If a unity agreement were reached then it would be seriously damaging to G4S’ business across the Middle East, with countries such as Iraq being forced to change their policies.

But here’s the rub. The boycott conference is usually held in Damascus every six months. The ongoing political turmoil in the country has forced all such events aside, with the conference due to take place in April being canceled. There are further complications as if it were to be hosted elsewhere several countries would be likely to prevent Syrian delegates from attending for political reasons, sparking a crisis with Damascus. As yet there is no set date for the next conference.It seems that Lebanon is the only country which has pushed for G4S to be considered abusers of the anti-boycott laws, and a proposal sent last year to the Central Boycott Committee has only recently been considered, with no other countries adding their input.

“We have enough information about G4S and the boycott rules apply to it. So there would be no need to postpone making a decision which will, most probably, be made during the upcoming Boycott Conference,” Bawab says optimistically.

Yet Bawab may even find opposition inside Lebanon against cutting back on the lucrative business. The scale of the work G4S do in Lebanon is unclear, with even Bawab saying he didn’t know exactly what they did in the country. But the head of a rival private security firm says they have “a couple of hundred guys” in the country, and it is not uncommon to see men in clothes with the company’s logo guarding private companies in Beirut’s Hamra.

Al-Akhbar discovered that the firm carried out a security review for the country’s preeminent university, the American University of Beirut. The 60-page confidential document details potential improvements that could be made to security and recommends that G4S operatives take over the running of the university’s security. It calls for much tighter security on the open-plan campus, with visitors to the site facing more strict regulations. The proposed changes, it says, will “significantly improve the interaction between AUB and G4S.”

In fact the company is backed by major political figures including the former Youth and Sports Minister Sebouh Hovnanian. Speaking to Al-Akhbar Hovnanian confirmed that his son had shares in the company but said he was not directly involved in the running of the company. He declined to comment on the company’s role in the West Bank.

June 26, 2012 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Solidarity and Activism, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Comments Off on G4S in Israel: The Soldiers of Global Occupation

War At Any Cost: Another Manufactured Pretext for War with Syria

By Eric Draitser | Stop Imperialism | June 25th, 2012

The downing of a Turkish jet by the Syrian military last week was not merely a military incident making the possibility of an intervention and regional war much more likely.  This episode was the most recent in a long and storied history of “international incidents” or provocations used by imperial powers as pretexts for military aggression.  Without such incidents, the forces of imperialism are seen as nothing more than aggressors, out to destroy weaker nations in their own interests.  However, with the necessary justifications that such episodes provide, those same powers can portray their wars as justified, necessary, and wholly righteous.

This event last week was only the latest in a series of provocations specifically designed to justify a military intervention.  However, as the façade of the Houla “massacre”, the use of children as human shields, and the countless other lies propagated by the Western media have been debunked or otherwise exposed, the Western imperialist ruling class looks for a new incident to legitimize their plan for total war on Syria.

Just the Facts

On June 21st, a Turkish jet was shot down by Syrian military forces. Initially, the Western media rushed to portray this incident as a blatantly aggressive action by Assad and his military, hoping to play off their many months of propagandizing the public into believing Assad to be the devil incarnate.  Vigorous condemnations were heard from all corners of the Western ruling establishment, as the world seemed to move closer to another so-called intervention.  However, as the episode unfolded, the media had to backtrack and, as usual, reversed their initial story without a fraction of the fanfare that the initial lie had.  They had to admit publicly that, in fact, the Turkish jet had violated Syrian airspace and so, according to international law, Syria was well within their rights to shoot it down.  This fact gets lost in the narrative however, as the world looks to NATO, the military arm of US power projection around the world, to “act decisively”.

This episode is merely the latest attempt by the imperialist establishment to drum up support for some form of military intervention by portraying the Assad regime as bloodthirsty monsters.  Last month, we saw the world recoil in horror at the brutality of what came to be known as the Houla “massacre”.  However, as the United States, France, and the other Western powers attempted to spin the event as a brutal example of why they must wage war on Syria, the truth came out that, in fact, the victims of the massacre were not killed by government shelling, but by close range execution attributable to the NATO-sponsored death squads unleashed on the people of Syria.

Like the Houla massacre, the outrageous claim that the Syrian military was using children as human shields was designed to play on the emotions of the international community in hopes of eliciting a swift response and creating a climate conducive to war.  Naturally, no evidence exists to back up this claim other than a dubious UN report based on so-called “activists” and “eyewitnesses”.  The Western propagandists are less interested in being able to support these claims than simply making them and implanting them into the public consciousness.

The Historical Precedent

These sorts of manufactured provocations are nothing new.  There is a rich historical record of such incidents being manipulated, distorted, or entirely fabricated in order to create a pretext for war.  One of the most famous examples of what has come to be known as the “false flag” phenomenon is the Gleiwitz incident.  Nazi operatives dressed as Polish soldiers attacked a German radio station and then claimed that this was the work of Polish saboteurs.  The Nazis even went so far as to import bodies and stage an entire scene which could then be offered up to the press as “evidence” of the assault.  Naturally, the incident was used as the direct pretext for the Nazi invasion of Poland and the official start of World War II.

A similar international false flag event, today known as the Gulf of Tonkin incident, led to the official start of the Vietnam War.  The claim was that the North Vietnamese had deliberately fired on two separate US naval vessels and that this, as an act of war, justified the US officially entering the war.  Of course, these incidents have since been totally debunked by declassified documents that show, even at the time, lawmakers were skeptical of the claims.  However, this episode illustrates the power of manufactured provocations to shape the course of foreign policy and the waging of war.

Perhaps no so-called “international incident” demonstrates more plainly the power of the media to influence public opinion and provide the necessary pretext for war than the sinking of the USS Maine.  This event, which was manufactured by William Randolph Hearst and the US establishment in order to justify imperial aggression against Cuba, demonstrates the role of the media in making the case for war.  In the lead-up to the sinking of the Maine, Hearst’s and other papers published wild stories of Spanish atrocities all throughout Cuba, the sorts of atrocities that required intervention.  Naturally, the Maine incident provided the cover and the US entered into what came to be known as the Spanish-American War. More importantly, however, today’s observers should note that this moment in history is perhaps the official beginning of US imperialism (treatment of the indigenous Native population on the continent notwithstanding).

What To Do?

What makes this issue of false flag events and “international incidents” relevant is the fact that the imperialist ruling class will manufacture as many of these sorts of episodes as is necessary for their wars.  Because of this, it is incumbent on the forces standing in opposition to such aggression to uphold the principles of international law and justice.  Syria was well within their rights to shoot down a foreign jet operating within their airspace, just as the US military would be within its rights to shoot down a Mexican warplane within US airspace.

However, this episode is far larger than simply international law.  Indeed, it strikes at the heart of the concept of the nation-state.  It demonstrates first, the power of the nation, with its leaders, citizens, and institutions to resist the forces of imperialism.  Conversely, it shows the existential need of the imperialist ruling class to destroy strong, independent nations that refuse to be enslaved by the forces of finance capital and imperial economic domination.  Syria is the frontline of the struggle against these forces, and those who believe themselves to be anti-imperialists must unite to denounce provocations, pretexts, and legitimizations manufactured by the imperialist ruling class and preempt all their attempts to drive the world ever closer to total war.

June 26, 2012 Posted by | Deception, False Flag Terrorism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 2 Comments

The Silent Ethnic Cleansing: A Glimpse Into the Plight of an “Invented” People

By Budour Hassan | Beyond Compromise | June 25, 2012

Jerusalem, Palestine – “Yes, Israel does violate international law and is far from perfect,” concedes the “enlightened” liberal Zionist, “But it is nowhere near as brutal or contemptible as the Assad regime.” The notion that Israel is somehow more tolerable than Arab tyrannies just because it does not bomb Palestinians in the West Bank or (gasp!) does not mass-murder demonstrators is virtually universal. This assumption, however, underlines a disturbing lack of understanding of the Israeli military occupation and the system of racial segregation governing the occupied west Bank. It goes without saying that those repeating this mantra have never lived under military occupation and have never experienced the constant fear of being abducted from their bedrooms and arrested without warrant, charges or trial.

In an attempt at refuting this notion, it’s necessary to explain the reasons for this shockingly pervasive ignorance. The vast majority of Israelis consistently and unashamedly clasp the charade that Israel is a democracy even if that means living in perpetual frugality, shrugging off horrendous crimes as singular incidents that do not represent the “most moral army in the world” and defending the indefensible under the guise of security. For a colonial society that thrives on a counterfeit sense of moral, intellectual and cultural superiority over an “invented” people, admitting culpability or complicity in the systematic annihilation of a defenseless, far less privileged community is unthinkable. So profound is the sense of denial enveloping Israelis that they take great offence at the very labeling of Israel as an apartheid state or, God forbid, condemning it in the same breath as Arab dictatorships. There is little to no outrage by Israelis about Israel’s atrocities because, remember, they are unrepresentative, rare – and for many they do not exist – no state is “perfect” and because human rights organizations are “biased” against Israel and want to wipe away the island of democracy surrounded by an ocean of oppressive, vulgar third world tribes.

The maligned genius of the Israeli occupation lies in its success to squeeze the lifeblood out of entire communities silently, gradually but brutally. Practices such as the rapidly increasing home demolitions; ceaseless construction and expansion of illegal settlements; blocking access to schools and agricultural fields; the frequent destruction of basic infrastructure like water wells and solar power plants; and the theft of land, identity and collective memory are hardly reported in the mainstream media. The discriminatory legal system and the racist bureaucracy that controls the tiniest minutiae of Palestinians’ daily life, including traveling to neighboring villages and even marriage, murder the soul of Palestinian society, but will never capture the headlines of the New York Times or CNN. The silent, invisible ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinian population does not possess the flash of missiles and explosions or the booming sound of mortar shells, but it is even more devastating and effective.

Such is the regularity of Israel’s human rights abuses that even Palestinians have normalized them, at times to the extent of desensitization. When asked whether she would like to write about her experience as a prisoner’s wife, a woman from Beit Ummar said no-one would be interested to read about it, likening the experience to cooking chicken.

The Palestinian victims of the Israeli occupation are often nameless and faceless. We read that there are over 4500 Palestinian political prisoners in Israeli occupation jails but very few of us recognize their names, their faces or their stories. If it were not for the heroic hunger-strikes, the suffering of thousands of prisoners languishing in Israel’s dungeons would remain untold. We only heard of Khader Adnan because of his inspiring 66-day huger-strike. If it were not for her incredible 43-day hunger-strike, we would never know that Hana Shalabi spent the best years of her life detained in Israel without charges or trial. It is only thanks to his astonishing 78-day hunger-strike that we knew about Thaer Halahleh who, prior to his release on 5 June, had never kissed his beloved daughter Lamar. Even Palestinian national team footballer Mahmoud Sarsak, who has been detained in Israel without trial or charge since July 2009, would have never gained the support of FIFA and world renowned footballers if it had not been for a miraculous 92 days without food. Mind you, even that was not sufficient for the Palestinian Football Association to raise an eyebrow. All of us, on the other hand, are familiar with the Israeli occupation soldier who was captured by Palestinian resistance 6 years ago today. He did not have to go on for days without food to garner the world’s attention and sympathy.

We might scroll through news about the demolition of Palestinian-owned houses, tents, huts and animal shelters while drinking our morning coffee, but little do we know about the actual victims, the hundreds who are forcibly displaced every month for the crime of being Palestinian.

Have you ever heard of Sawsan Hamamdeh? She does not blog nor does she have a Twitter account; she does not introduce herself as an “activist” but she perfectly personifies the Palestinian struggle. Born in the cave-dweller village of Mfaggara in South Hebron Hills, Sawsan became the first girl from her village to attend collage in the city of Yatta. Denied access to electricity or running water like the overwhelming majority of South Hebron Hills’ residents, Sawsan studied for her Tawjihi exams under the light of an old lantern she inherited from her grandfather. On a dreary, rainy November afternoon last year, private Israeli contractors, hired by the “civil” administration, came to demolish her home. The pretext, as usual, is building without permit. Israel sweepingly and systematically refuses to grant residents of Area C, which comprises 60% of the West Bank, permits to build homes or tents to accommodate the natural growth. Sawsan’s father Mahmoud put up two rooms on top of his cave in 2002 after applying and failing to get a permit. Needless to say, the residents of the illegal, Jewish-only, nearby settlement of Avigail face no such problems. Settlers can expand, build parks and enjoy all the privileges that the indigenous Palestinians can only dream of. As this video shows, Sawsan’s punishment for trying to nonviolently prevent the demolition of the cave, wherein the best memories of her childhood reside, was brutal arrest, pepper-spray and a week in the infamous “Russian Compound”, a detention camp in occupied Jerusalem. “I’ve always dreamt of visiting Jerusalem,” Sawsan told me, “but not like that. They dragged me to the vehicle along with my 17-year-old cousin Amal. We were hand-cuffed and blindfolded. The week I spent in detention in Jerusalem was the worst in my life.”

Fighting back tears, Sawsan showed me the rubble of her demolished home. “I felt like an olive tree that was violently uprooted.” She said with agony. “The Israelis want all of us to leave Mfaggara and go to Yatta, but I would never leave my village even if I had sleep on the street.”

Budour Hassan, originally from Nazareth, is a Palestinian anarchist and Law student at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. You can follow her on Twitter here.

June 26, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Ethnic Cleansing, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | 1 Comment

Al-Nu’man – A Case of Indirect Forcible Transfer

June 26, 2012 by

In 1967, Israel illegally annexed East Jerusalem and surrounding areas, including the land of Al-Nu’man village. However, the inhabitants of the village were not recorded in the 1967 census of Jerusalem and many were given West Bank IDs. Villagers are considered by Israel to be illegally residing in Jerusalem simply by being in their homes.

In 2002 al-Nu’man’s residents were informed that the village lay adjacent to the planned route of the Wall and, with the settler bypass road passing through the village, they would have no access to Jerusalem or the West Bank. In 2006 a military checkpoint was established at the entrance to the village allowing only al-Nu’man residents to pass through.

The stunting of Al-Nu’man’s natural growth, the gradual enforced transfer of residents and the obstruction of any incoming residents can all be attributed to Israel’s systematic campaign to ultimately rid the area of its Palestinian inhabitants. This is a clear example of a policy of indirect forcible transfer, which is a war crime under international humanitarian law.

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June 26, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Video | , , | 1 Comment

Egyptian court rules army cannot arrest civilians

RT | June 26, 2012

An Egyptian court has overturned a government decree allowing the army to arrest civilians.

­The decree was originally issued by the army-backed interim government on June 13, before the presidential election earlier this month. It was challenged by human rights activists and politicians who accused the military council of reviving an unpopular emergency law that lapsed in May.

It gave the military police and intelligence the power to detain civilians and refer them to a military tribunal.

“The court has blocked the decision of the Minister of Justice that gave military and military intelligence officers powers of arrest,” said Cairo administrative court Judge Ali Fikry.

According to the Al Ahram newspaper website, the list of crimes to which the law could be applied include crimes and misdemeanours harmful to the government, possession and or use of explosives, resisting orders issued by those in power or assaulting them, destruction of public property or historic monuments, obstructing traffic, strike-actions at institutions that serve the public interest or assaulting the right to work, and intimidation and thuggery.

Former presidential candidate Khaled Ali, along with 17 activists, who initially filed an appeal against the law has confirmed to the newspaper that the court had ruled in his favor.

June 26, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties | , | Comments Off on Egyptian court rules army cannot arrest civilians

Shafiq flees Egypt after election loss

Press TV – June 26, 2012

Egypt’s defeated presidential candidate Ahmed Shafiq has left the country just after a probe has been launched into his handling of funds under the former regime.

Shafiq, who lost the June runoff vote to the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsi, flew to the United Arab Emirates in the early hours of Tuesday, AFP quoted an unnamed Cairo airport official as saying.

He was reportedly accompanied by his three daughters and grandchildren.

The departure of Shafiq, who served as the last prime minister under ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak, came hours after the country’s prosecutor general opened a corruption investigation against him.

The inquiry will look into allegations that Shafiq wasted public funds during the eight years he held office as the civil aviation minister under Mubarak.

Meanwhile, rights activists accuse the attorney general of making attempts to hold back some 35 corruption cases against Shafiq by re-transferring them to a military court.

Earlier, Egypt’s former intelligence chief and Vice President Omar Suleiman also left the country for the UAE.

June 26, 2012 Posted by | Corruption | , , , | Comments Off on Shafiq flees Egypt after election loss