BT – Official Sponsors of War Crimes

By: John Goss

Protestors last night disrupted the British Olympic Ball to send a message to its sponsor, BT, to cut its ties with Bezeq, supplier of telecommunications services to Israeli checkpoints, military bases and illegal settlements in occupied Palestine.

As celebrities and officials arrived at Grosvenor House Hotel on Park Lane for the £500-a-ticket event protestors waved banners and shouted slogans in support of the boycott of companies that profit from, are complicit in and actively supporting Israel’s continued occupation of Palestine and the on-going presence of illegal settlements in the West Bank.

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The highlight of the protest saw a pro-Palestine samba band emerge from a pink limousine at the red carpet entrance, causing great embarrassment to the organisers and drawing attention away from the celebrities and towards the demonstrators’ concerns.

Police arrived and were soon being aggressive with the participants in the peaceful protest – described as having a “carnival atmosphere” by one BBC reporter present – and attempted to force them away from the entrance. The demonstrators resisted this antagonistic policing but eventually took up a position near the massed press.

Later, after the police had departed, the cyclists taking part in Critical Mass arrived to block the street outside the hotel, join the demonstration and enjoy the samba music.

In January 2010 BT announced that Bezeq had “joined the BT Alliance programme with a Gold Partner status”[1]. Bezeq provides communications technology to the Israeli military in the West Bank and Gaza where violence against Palestinians is the norm. It also serves the checkpoints, which limit Palestinians’ freedom of movement around the West Bank. Bezeq reinforces and supports the expansion of settlement activity in the West Bank by providing telecommunications infrastructure for the settlements that are illegal under international law.

The company also insists that its employees have served in the Israeli army, effectively excluding Palestinian citizens from the workforce as almost all Arabs are excluded from military service in Israel.

BT pays lip service to its commitment to upholding human rights and supporting “an inclusive workplace, where people have equal opportunities and are judged on merit alone.” The affiliation with Bezeq, a company with an appalling human rights and equal opportunities track record, undermines these evidently empty platitudes.

The boycott of Israeli settlements and companies complicit in the construction of and support for these settlements is rapidly gathering pace in the UK and around the world as civil society rejects Israel’s illegal activities and disregard for human dignity and international law. Civil society calls on BT to cut its ties with Bezeq with immediate effect to show that it takes its ethical and moral commitments seriously.

The protestors call on civil society to boycott BT until it has terminated its ties with Israel’s illegal occupation.

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[1] ‘Bezeq International joins BT Alliance with gold partner status’, BT Press Release, 18 January 2010, http://www.btplc.com/news/articles/showarticle.cfm?articleid={a21ff7f3-0965-4753-9174-6489ec5c1a83}

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