World Bulletin / News Desk
About 200 activists protested on Thursday outside the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Johannesburg headquarters, urging the charity to divest from a company they accused of complicity in Israel's detention, torture and incarceration of Palestinian political prisoners.
"The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation currently own shares worth more than $170 million in the notorious security company G4S," protest organizer Mohamed Desai told Anadolu Agency.
He said G4S, the world's leading global integrated security company, had been the target of several successful international boycott campaigns in recent years over accusations of involvement in Israeli human rights abuses.
"Currently, there are thousands of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, and G4S is helping Israel keep our comrades in prison," Desai told the crowd.
The protest was organized by the South African chapter of the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.
Participants wore black BDS t-shirts bearing the words "Boycott G4S."
They sang revolutionary songs and praised late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat and South African President Jacob Zuma.
"Down with Israeli apartheid," activists shouted as they danced outside the gates of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, owned by Microsoft founder and multibillionaire Bill Gates.
Officers of the South African Police Services (SAPS), meanwhile, kept a watchful eye on the event.
Members of the foundation's staff peered through their office windows; some snapped pictures of the protestors with their cellphones.
"The salary and profits that you're getting is from the blood of Palestinian women and children who are imprisoned by Israel," one protestor shouted, attracting the attention of foundation staffers.
Earlier this month, Desai had said that pro-Palestinian organizations had written to the Gates Foundation to urge it to divest from G4S, but that their letter had gone unanswered.
Therefore, he said, pro-Palestinian organizations – led by Palestinian prisoner organization Addameer, together with endorsements from over 150 other groups – had called on "peace-loving people around the world" to stage rallies on April 17 outside the offices of the Gates Foundation in all the countries in which the foundation operates.
April 17 also marks international Palestinian Prisoner Day.
Desai later delivered a petition to David Allen, country representative for the Gates foundation.
Representatives of the Gates Foundation and G4S were not immediately available to comment on the report.
Several phone calls make to the company's office went unanswered.
In a press release dated April 9, G4S said it "provides security systems installation and maintenance services (for example, intruder alarms, CCTV cameras, access control equipment) to the Israeli Prison Service (IPS)."
It went on to add: "The IPS is not involved in the judicial process, it receives convicted prisoners or those awaiting trial and is responsible for their custody and care- the IPS has no role in trial, conviction or sentencing."
Mthunzi Mbuli, another BDS campaigner, said South Africans feel the Palestinians' pain.
"As South Africans, we painfully identify with the plight of the Palestinians in general and Palestinian prisoners in particular," he told AA.
He said that when South Africans see the imprisonment of Palestinians by Israel, they are reminded of how their mothers and fathers were imprisoned during the apartheid era.
"We find it disturbing that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has invested in the notorious security company G4S, which is complicit and is basically profiteering from Israel's imprisonment, detention and torture of Palestinians, including children," said Mbuli.
Tamer Al-Massari, media and culture officer at the Palestinian embassy in South Africa, also urged the foundation to divest from the controversial security firm.
South Africans have traditionally supported the Palestinian struggle for statehood.
Last month, the ruling African National Congress (ANC) officially endorsed an annual "Israel Apartheid Week," to be held annually with the aim of raising awareness about Israeli rights violations against Palestinians.
The ANC, which championed South Africa's anti-apartheid movement, said in a statement at the time that it was "unequivocal in its support for the Palestinian people in their struggle for self-determination, and unapologetic in its view that the Palestinians are the victims and the oppressed in the conflict with Israel."Last Mod: 18 Nisan 2014, 09:37