As part of Right to Education Week 2012, an international week of events called for by students at Birzeit University to raise awareness of the right of those in occupied Palestine to education, Scottish students from Glasgow and Dundee Universities staged an action against multi-national security corporation G4S, which has recently found itself in the public eye over its shambolic handling of security at the London Olympics.
However, as well as costing the taxpayer millions because of its inability to employ the correct number of staff, G4S also involves itself deeply in the Israeli occupation of Palestine and its denial of basic human rights. Of particular relevance to this week’s campaign is its provision of security systems for the Kishon Detention Centre (also known as Al-Jalame, after the ethnically cleansed Palestinian village it was built upon) just outside Haifa, where children have been held in solitary confinement for as long as 65 days in small, filthy cells with improper food and water supplies and little or no access to educational materials.
Students from the Right to Education campaign at Birzeit University have been touring Universities across the UK this week, speaking about the targeting of Palestinian students by the Israeli army as a means of restricting access to education for Palestinians in the West Bank. Approximately 70 students from Birzeit are currently held in Israel’s jails, many under administrative detention, a mechanism which sees Palestinians held for indefinite periods of time without ever seeing charges presented against them.
As well as arresting students, restrictions in access to education occurs through a range of other abusive practices such as closing schools, universities and colleges, road closures, checkpoints, denial of visas and restricting access to funding. For many Palestinians, remaining in education is a daily struggle.
As we arrived at G4S’s Scottish depot at Milnbank Street in Glasgow’s East End, we were immediately struck by its impenetrable appearance, with barbed wire and electric fencing resembling something more likely to be found in a James Bond film than a Glasgow side-street. Nonetheless, we affixed several placards to the outermost security fence, and proceeded to stage a small protest with a mock Israeli Army checkpoint on the pavement outside, illustrating G4S’s complicity in Israeli human rights abuses. This soon attracted the attention of staff at the facility’s front gate, one of whom boorishly confronted us, claiming that the G4S facility was so secure even photographing it from the street was impermissible, challenging our right to be present on the pavement outside, and implying that over-sized cardboard cut-out rifles carried by students posed a substantial security threat, after which he retreated inside, stating his intention to call police, who never arrived.
Afterwards, we then took our protest to Buchanan Street in the heart of the city centre, distributing several hundred leaflets about G4S’s relationship with Israel, and its involvement in other human rights abuses, whilst the mock checkpoint made a striking impact on passers-by. Our action last Thursday was part of a much bigger campaign against G4S which is taking roots internationally. Whether because of their complicity in the occupation of Palestine, their abuse of refugees and asylum seekers in the UK, their instrumental role in mass privatisation of public funding in the UK and abroad or any of the other horrific violations facilitated by the company, the campaign to bring down G4S is receiving a wealth of support from many civil society organisations.
To find out more about the campaign against G4S, visit stopg4s.net