Many of us are probably familiar with the printers and computers made by Hewlett-Packard. We are likely less familiar of the role that HP plays in aiding the Israeli government’s undemocratic rule over the occupied Palestinian territories.
One of the most prominent elements of Israeli control is the checkpoint system. Illegal under international law, the checkpoints deeply restrict the right to freedom of movement that is guaranteed under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and constitute collective punishment, thereby violating Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Referencing legal documents does not capture the harm that the checkpoint system causes to the Palestinian people. The system is all-encompassing; the Israeli NGO B’Tselem reports that, as of February 2012, there are 57 permanent checkpoints located well within the interior of the West Bank. More unpredictable are the temporary “flying” checkpoints that vary in amount month-by-month but, according to the UN Office for the Coordination for Humanitarian Affairs, numbered 256 as of last May. In places such as Hebron, Palestinian children are even forced to go through checkpoints just to get to school.
The terrible impact of such checkpoints, at which it is not unusual for Palestinians to wait several hours to get through, is unsurprising. The Palestinian Red Crescent has reported 112 deaths and 35 still-births as a result of pregnant mothers and other Palestinians in need of medical attention being delayed at checkpoints. In 2004, the World Bank reported that Israeli checkpoints and other movement restrictions had caused Palestinians to suffer “one of the worst recessions in modern history.”
HP has been complicit in this by developing, operating and maintaining the Basel system via its subsidiary EDS Israel. Basel is a biometric system installed in checkpoints that is used to control the movement of Palestinians, helping the Israeli government, a foreign power, to pick and choose which Palestinians may travel through their occupied land. Materially aiding in this apparently is of no concern to HP’s executives.
Not content to involve itself in only one of the Israeli government’s human rights violations, HP has also provided technology services to the Israeli settlement of Ariel, located in the West Bank. Like the other settlements, Ariel violates Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the transfer of the population of the occupying power into occupied territory. Furthermore, Ariel and the other settlements materially harm Palestinians by sucking up 10 percent of the West Bank’s water (another 73 percent goes to Israel itself), resulting in a situation in which Israeli settlers can use 280 liters of water a day and Palestinians are only allowed 86 liters. As with the checkpoints, such injustices are evidently of no interest to HP in its hunt for profit.
But they may be of interest to AU students. Our own bookstore sells HP products and so we are in a position to challenge HP on this issue. In 2005, 171 Palestinian organizations launched the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign, an effort to end the oppression of the Israeli government through nonviolent means. In line with this initiative and using the methods of activists such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mohandas Gandhi., we call on all students to boycott HP products until this corporation ceases its complicity in serious humanitarian crimes.
Students for Justice in