G4S equips the apartheid wall, Israel confirms

The company whose logo appears on police staff uniforms in the UK and dropped the Olympics contract has far reaching impact on multiple security settings.

The British-Danish security giant G4S has become the target of rights activists in different countries because of its provision of services to Israeli prisons, military checkpoints and to firms in illegal settlements in the West Bank.

G4S Israel advertised its role in Eretz checkpoint on its website

Who Profits? G4S Israel advertised its role in Eretz checkpoint on its website.

In 2008, G4S Israel advertised its involvement with Israeli miitary checkpoints on its website. The text on the left of the screenshot above reads: “Systems for checking persons, manufactured by Safeview USA, first of their kind, were installed at the Erez checkpoint. The systems are in operational use by the army and enable the performance of full scans of the human body.”

G4S confirmed it had provided security equipment with “associated maintenance services” to the Israeli police, prison service and defense ministry, in a 21 December 2010 letter to the Business and Human Rights Resource Center in London. At the same time, the company claimed it did “not control” — and was not  “necessarily aware” — where its security equipment was deployed “as it may be moved around the country.”

Lack of transparency

G4S’s claim that it did not know where its security equipment was deployed sounds implausible. In 2008, the campaign group Who Profits? found evidence on G4S Israel’s website that the firm supplied equipment to the checkpoints of Bethlehem, Qalandiya near Ramallah, Irtah near Tulkarem, and Erez near Gaza. Who Profits? published the information in a March 2011 report on G4S. Although the information is no longer available on the company’s website, the screenshots capturing the pages with the information can be found in thereport by Who Profits?.

G4S advertises scanning machines in operation at checkpoints located along the route of the wall

The text on the left of the screenshot reads: “Personal luggage scanning machines manufactured by Rapiscan USA were installed in the Seam Zone crossings [checkpoints which are located along the route of the wall] including the Qalandiya crossing, the Bethlehem crossing, the Sha’ar Efraim [Irtah] crossing and more.”

Confirmation

In order to obtain more clarity about G4S’s involvement in Israel’s military checkpoints, Who Profits? filed a request under the Israeli Freedom of Information Act. A reply from the defense ministry in July 2012 confirmed that ”G4S is one of the companies that provides inspection [services] and scanning equipment to all the Israeli checkpoints along the separation wall [in the West Bank],” wrote Who Profits? in an email to me on 19 November 2012. Click here for a detailed map of the wall and the checkpoints.

In an interview with The Electronic Intifada, London lawyer Simon Natas addressed G4S’s role in Israel’s violations of international law. The provision of technical equipment and maintenance for checkpoints is particuarly problematic, he said. The International Court of Justice found that the construction of the wall on Palestinian land was illegal in 2004. Excerpts of the interview follow below:

The court talked not only about the wall, but about the wall and its associated regime. It considered that “the construction of the wall and its associated regime create a fait accompli on the ground that could well become permanent in which case and notwithstanding the formal characterization of the wall by Israel it would be tantamount to de facto annexation.”

When one talks about the associated regime of the wall, one certainly talks about the checkpoints, because the wall cannot operate without checkpoints.

So the checkpoints are necessary in order to allow Israelis access to the West Bank [and] to prevent Palestinians from passing the other way. If you are providing the technical facilities like scanners and other equipment, and you also have a contract to look after them, to fix them when they go wrong, to ensure that they are working properly, then you are assisting in that process by ensuring that the checkpoints can effectively regulate the movement of people through the wall.

The system of checkpoints connected to the wall is designed to limit and control the movement of Palestinians within the West Bank. In addition, they are used to give Israelis access to illegal settlements located in the West Bank. As such, the checkpoints serve Israeli settlement policies. By providing inspection services and security services to the military checkpoints, G4S assists Israel in strengthening its grip on the occupied West Bank and has become complicit in Israel's unlawful settlement enterprise.


An earlier version of this article was published on Electronic Intifada on December 7th 2012.