New York City protesters demonstrated on Friday, 20 May outside the local office of British-Danish security conglomerate G4S, a contractor with Israeli Prison Service, to demand that Israel release Adib Mafarjah and Fouad Assi, two Palestinian prisoners on their 48th day of hunger strike against Israeli administrative detention – incarceration without charge or trial under Israeli military orders. They also demanded that G4S end its Israeli contracts, under which the corporation provides security systems, equipment and control rooms to Israeli prisons, checkpoints, police training centers, and even the Erez/Beit Hanoun crossing where the siege of Gaza is enforced.
Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network’s weekly New York protest also celebrated the 19 May release of Mohammed al-Qeeq, a Palestinian journalist who conducted a 94-day hunger strike demanding his freedom from administrative detention without charge or trial.
One passerby from Ireland spoke with demonstrators, recalling the 1980-81 hunger strikes by Irish republicans and in particular, Bobby Sands and the 9 other Irish strikers who gave their lives on hunger strike, in light of the ongoing Palestinian hunger strikes against colonial incarceration. Among those who discussed the situation with demonstrators were several women from the Netherlands, who discussed Palestine activism and organizing – including the campaign against G4S – in their country.
Mafarjah and Assi have been on hunger strike since 3 April to demand their release from imprisonment without charge or trial. Mafarjah and Assi’s health has deteriorated significantly; both are now hospitalized, but were held in solitary confinement from the beginning of their strikes in an attempt to pressure them to end their protest.
Also striking is Sami Janazrah, 43, who resumed his hunger strike on Wednesday, 18 May after a week of consuming only liquids, after his administrative detention continued despite an Israeli Supreme Court hearing and a date for prosecutors to continue investigation.
On Thursday, 19 May, the Palestinian Prisoners Society said that Janazrah’s administrative detention would be ended – but that he would then be accused in the Israeli military courts, which convict over 99% of the Palestinians brought before them, of “incitement.” Incitement is a vague charge that has been used to arrest over 150 Palestinians for Facebook posts and many more for public speeches and other political activity and expressions of opinion.
G4S is the target of an international boycott campaign – including a call from Palestinian prisoners – for its involvement in profiting from the imprisonment of Palestinians. G4S is also boycotted for its involvement in youth incarceration and migrant detention in the US, UK and Australia; it has lost several contracts at universities in the US, at UN institutions in Jordan, and at various corporations and public institutions around the world because of its involvement in human rights violations in Palestine and around the world. The corporation has pledged to end its involvement in “reputationally damaging” businesses, including selling off its Israeli subsidiary – but after ongoing G4S promises but little action, Palestinian activists have urged the continuation and escalation of the campaign against G4S.
BDS Egypt recently launched a local campaign against G4S, following in the footsteps of growing projects confronting G4S’ presence in Jordan, Morocco, Kuwait and Lebanon. UK trade unions are also pressing G4S regarding its claimed plans to end its contract with the Israeli Prison Service.
Samidoun protests weekly in New York City on Fridays at 4 pm outside the G4S office in Manhattan, at 19 W. 44th Street, highlighting G4S’ profiteering from the imprisonment of Palestinians and demanding freedom for all Palestinian prisoners.
Photos by Joe Catron