On Tuesday, Israel celebrated its Independence Day, and in good fashion, twitter celebrated it by calling out Israel’s practices of injustice against Palestine with an #IsraeliIndependenceEquals hashtag started by Rania Khalek, Steve Salaita, Reem, Jenien Barakat, Brady, Dina and Julie. It was during this hashtag that a friend of mine, Cherrell Brown, exposed me to an ugly truth; Bill Gates invests in, and profits off of the Israeli occupation!
What is Bill Gates’ connection to Israel’s occupation?
With a net worth of $72 billion, Bill Gates stands as the richest man, both in America and the world. Alongside his wife, Melinda Gates, Bill Gates started their charity, the Gates Foundation. The Gates Foundation is the largest private foundation in the world. Recently, Bill Gates used his foundation to purchase $172 million worth of shares in G4S, effectively making it one of the company’s biggest shareholders.
After looking into this information, I was in disbelief that Bill Gates, a man who has built a charity dedicated to improving the world, with a particular emphasis on improving the lives of those that are marginalized, would be complicit in the Israeli occupation. But further research proved exactly what I had been told.
Who or what is G4S?
G4S (Group 4 Securicor) is the world’s largest private military and securitycompany with operations that span 125 countries. This private security company has a contract with the Israeli Prison Service where it provides and maintains security systems at five prisons, and detention centers, and also assists Israeli police, Israeli military checkpoints, the Ministry of Defense, the Israeli army, and the settlement businesses.
Mass incarceration & Israel’s violation of international law
It is estimated that 800,000 Palestinians have been arrested and imprisoned from 1967 til now. To date, there are more than 5,000 Palestinian political prisoners, along with new reports of 183 Palestinian children, currently held in Israeli prisons and being subjected to widespread torture, abuse, solitary confinement and coercion. The Defence for Children International Palestine reports that during 2013, there were more than one in five cases in which children were coerced into signing statements containing admission of guilt, in Hebrew, a language they do not understand. Palestinian children are also reportedly held in solitary confinement for weeks. In March alone, 202 Palestinian children were imprisoned and prosecuted, 24 of which were between the ages of 12 – 15 years old.
Addameer, the Prisoner Support and Human Rights organization, has reported that 72 Palestinians have died as a result of torture and 53 have died due to medical neglect inside Israeli prisons since 1967. Just last year, a 30 year old Palestinian man, Arafat Jaradat, died in an Israeli prison after being tortured. These horrific acts are happening in most of the prisons operated by G4S, and as long as Israel continues its mass incarceration of Palestinians in Israeli prisons, G4S, and its shareholders (to include Bill Gates and his foundation), profit.
If breaching the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child by its treatment of Palestinian child prisoners wasn’t enough, Israel also violates Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention as it is clear in stating that detainees are to remain in the occupied country, not in the country of the occupier; a law that Israel has violated many times over by forcing the transfer of prisoners to
If you glance at the Gates Foundations website, you will see that they are, "guided by the belief that every life has equal value". The question now is, which lives are they referring to? You simply cannot tell children in Africa that their lives matter when your money aids in the mass incarceration of Palestinian children. This is contradictory to the mission and values of the foundation.
Make no mistake, through the Gates Foundation, Bill and Melinda have done incredible work, both in the U.S. and abroad. But their investment in G4S is contributing to the most oppressive conditions and pervasive human rights violations of Palestinians. Even the greatest, most admirable work in the world cannot allow us to ignore the atrocities taking place in Palestine. We cannot fight for quality education, health and fight against poverty in some nations and then financially profit off of the driving force that leads to these outcomes in other nations.
It was Anna Lappe that said, "Every time you spend money, you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want". With his money, Bill Gates and the Gates Foundation, has cast a grotesque vote for the cruel and inhumane treatment and oppression of Palestinians, and has made their grantees, whether they know it or not, accomplices in the violation of human rights.
As activists, freedom fighters, writers, truth speakers and advocates, we cannot remain blind and deaf in the face of truth, no matter how painful that truth is or who it involves. We have an obligation to act. I implore you to sign the petition and join Addameer and other human rights groups as they urge Bill Gates to divest from G4S. Now is the time to divest from blood money, mass incarceration and genocide, and recommit ourselves to investing in human rights.