Emily Schneider: County security contract supports human-rights abuses

08/08/2014 12:00 AM

08/06/2014 3:40 PM

Over the past weeks, I’ve watched with horror as the death toll in Gaza rises to over 1,800 dead and nearly 10,000 wounded. Desperate to take action, I reached out to my local community and found an interfaith coalition of Jews, Muslims and Christians working together to end Durham County’s contract with G4S.

Group 4 Securicor (G4S) is a British-Danish security conglomerate responsible for human-rights abuses worldwide and has a net worth of $1 billion. In 2007, G4S signed a contract with the Prison Authority in Israel, where today it provides security for illegal settlements, checkpoints and prisons. Right here in Durham, G4S was given a $1 million contract to provide security services at Durham's libraries and other county facilities. I had no idea that Durham residents’ tax dollars were funding human-rights abuses in Palestine, and like many others, I was outraged.

This issue is deeply personal for me, not only because I’m Jewish, but also because after growing up in the Triangle, I moved to Israel where I worked for three years at an organization that brought Israeli and Palestinian youth together to advocate for peace. During my time there, I saw my Palestinian friends dragged away to G4S prisons for nonviolently demonstrating in their own land. I waited for hours at checkpoints operated by G4S equipment, where Palestinians are forced to line up like cattle and are subjected to unbearable humiliation. As I stood at these checkpoints, my fellow Jews drove by on roads paved only for them, to reach their Jewish-only settlements, which again, are made possible by G4S.

These memories will be etched in my brain forever.

It was with these images in mind, that I joined Jewish Voice for Peace ( jewishvoiceforpeace.org) and their partners to stand before the Durham County Commission at a work session on Aug. 4 and demand an end to their contract with G4S.

The coalition is made up of a diverse array of local groups including Jewish Voice for Peace-NC, Jews for a Just Peace, Salaam-Shalom Committee of the Church of Reconciliation, Abrahamic Initiative on the Middle East, and the Muslim American Public Affairs Council. In their statement of support, MAPAC writes:

“We are pleased to join our Jewish brothers and sisters in urging a local action that could help in moving a miscreant corporation toward global reform … Since profit, untempered by morality, is clearly the prime motive for G4S, we urge the County Commissioners to send a strong message to that company in the only language its management apparently understands.”

By cutting ties with G4S, Durham County would follow other major organizations such as the European Union, Gates Foundation, and Methodist Church in dissociating from G4S. In 1986, Durham City Council passed a resolution to not award contracts to any companies in business with the apartheid government of South Africa. I hope that Durham will continue to follow this inspiring legacy by yet again standing on the right side of history.

We are all searching for answers as to how to stop the violence. One answer is to take a stand against those companies that are profiting off of the bloodshed.

We have an incredible opportunity here in Durham to be a voice for hope, reason and a peaceful future.

The county commissioners meet Monday at 7 p.m. I invite you to join us, as we gather there to thank them for their careful consideration and ask for their moral leadership in discontinuing their contract with G4S.

For other ways to get involved, contact me at mailto:emschneider36@gmail.comor visit the campaign website at durhamdropg4s.wordpress.com/

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