Friday, 8 February 2013

Queen Mary Students vote to boycott G4S and Veolia

G4S equip all of the checkpoints on Israel's apartheid wall.

Queen Mary, University of London Students' Union decided on Thursday to boycott G4S and Veolia for the companies' complicity in the denial of Palestinian human rights. A large majority of the 515 students in attendance at the Annual Members' Meeting voted in favour of the motion.

QMUL currently has contracts with both companies. The motion resolves to “strongly urge QMUL to allow its contracts with G4S and Veolia to expire” on account of their activities which facilitate the denial of Palestinian human rights.

The vote followed a lively debate. Advocates of the motion talked about the ways in which Israeli military occupation gravely violates Palestinian human rights. Sam Playle, who proposed the motion, declared “The brutal occupation can only continue because it continues to receive international support. Corporate complicity in the denial of human rights must not be tolerated on our campuses.” One detractor raised qualms about the reliability of a 2012 report by a delegation of UK lawyers about Palestinian children in Israeli military custody, which had been cited.

Students' Union President Babatunde Williams, also spoke in favour of the motion, arguing “Queen Mary recognises that it needs to take a stance on ethical partnerships hence why high level discussions have taken place in regards to an ethical partners policy. However, if it wishes to send a quick message that we are different from the LSE and their “omnishambles” of a moral compass then what better way than to remove G4S and Veolia from our campuses.”

Earlier campaigns at Queen Mary had been less successful. Ellen Tansey, a student who campaigned for the boycott, remarked “last year we had a motion dismissed by the Students' Union council, so to win so decisively in the most democratic forum available was fantastic. Our success was thanks to a grassroots campaign by a number of societies and individual students raising awareness of Israeli apartheid on campus, and persuading their friends to come out and vote.”

The motion was conceived as a response to the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) in defence of Palestinian human rights. Aamna Mohdin, the science faculty representative who seconded the motion, said “Queen Mary made an excellent decision by supporting BDS and kicking G4S and Veolia of our campus! No one should be working with companies involved in Israeli war crimes. This is just the first step, and I hope many universities follow suit.”

Ozzy Amir, welfare representative in the Students' Union, commented “I'm really pleased that this motion passed and that we are putting pressure on our university to source more ethical companies that aren't complicit in the violation of human rights and international law abroad.”

G4S is a British-Danish private security company which equips Israeli prisons where Palestinians, including children and MPs, are incarcerated, sometimes indefinitely without trial and in conditions which amount to torture. G4S also equips checkpoints on Israel's apartheid wall, which the International Court of Justice has ruled to be illegal.

Veolia is a French infrastructure company which runs transport links between Israel and the West Bank settlements which are illegal under international law, using 'apartheid roads' where Palestinians are banned. Veolia also operates Tovlan landfill, a site in the West Bank where Israeli waste is dumped.

Read the text of the motion here.

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Text of the motion

The text of the motion to be voted on:

G4S and Veolia out of QMUL

QMSU Notes

  1. There has been an Israeli military occupation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories since 1967, and settlements built there are illegal under international law, according to the UK Government. [1,2]
  2. G4S is a British-Danish private security company which operates globally. A G4S subsidiary provides services and equipment for the Israeli occupation,[3] including contracts with prisons whose inmates include Palestinians held without trial [4] and under-18s. [5] .
  3. In September 2011, a team of UK lawyers sent by the UK Government to investigate Palestinian children in Israeli military custody noted practices including solitary confinement, hooding, and the use of leg irons. [6]
  4. Veolia Environnement is a French multinational infrastructure company. Veolia subsidiaries run transport links connecting Israel to the settlements. A Veolia subsidiary runs and operates the Tovlan landfill in the occupied West Bank which is used to dump waste both from within Israel and from settlements. [7]
  5. A Freedom of Information request to QMUL has revealed that Veolia carry out waste removal at the Whitechapel campus on a rolling quarterly contract, and that G4S provide a service to the Finance department and the Library under a contract which expires on 4th June 2013.
  6. That in 2005, over 170 Palestinian civil society groups called for an international campaign of boycotting, divestment and sanctions (BDS) in defence of Palestinian human rights. [8]
  7. a) That the National Union of Students encourages students to campaign against Veolia. [9]
    b) That the University of London Union voted to support BDS and “pressure University of London universities and affiliate students’ unions to divest from Israel and from companies directly or indirectly supporting the Israeli occupation and apartheid policies”. [10]
    c) That the Universities and Colleges Union supports the BDS campaign. [11]
    d) That the Trades Unions Congress calls for a “campaign for disinvestment by companies associated with the occupation”. [12]
  8. That the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories specifically named G4S and Veolia as companies which “should be boycotted” for their role in Israel's occupation. [13]

QMSU Believes:

  1. A peaceful and just settlement in the Middle East is essential.
  2. That our college should not, therefore, work with G4S and Veolia, which support the occupation through their activities.

QMSU Resolves:

  1. To strongly urge QMUL to allow its contracts with G4S and Veolia to expire and to find different providers.
  2. To include information on its website explaining its position on G4S and Veolia until, at the earliest, QMUL ends its contracts with these companies.
  3. For QMSU not to take out any contracts with G4S or Veolia in the future, until they have completely stopped providing services for the Israeli occupation.