Pro-Palestine activists in the UK have accused Hewlett Packard (HP), the US multinational information technology corporation, of supporting the illegal Israeli military occupation of Palestinian lands, launching a campaign to boycott its products.
HP has denied the accusation, arguing it does not take any side in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and that its business in Israel and occupied territories does not violate human rights.
The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) added HP to the target list of its Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, aimed at putting international pressure on Israel to end its illegal settlements and occupation of the Palestinian territories, and the violation of Palestinian human rights.
It called on supporters of Palestine in the UK and world to pledge not to buy HP products “until it ends its complicity in the illegal Israeli occupation ... and oppression of the Palestinians.”
“More than 5,000 people have signed up since we launched our petition to boycott HP,” Amena Saleem, PSC spokeswoman, told Ahram Online.
“HP provides Israel with specialised technologies that are integral to Israel’s system of oppression of the Palestinian people,” she added.
The occupation connection
According to a previous statement issued by PSC, HP also provides the Israeli Navy’s IT infrastructure that supports bombarding Gaza and enforces the illegal blockade from the sea.
“By contracting with the Israeli Navy, HP becomes complicit in the Israeli state’s war crimes against Gaza,” Saleem said.
HP is best known as a global provider of computer products and IT services. It is also reported as one of the top 25 defence contractors with the US Department of Defense.
Anti-Israeli occupation activists also criticise the American multinational giant's presence in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank.
They say HP helps Israel develop, execute and maintain the BASEL system, an automated biometric identification system installed by the Israeli military at their checkpoints in the occupied West Bank.
It is reported that biometric data of nearly every Palestinian over the age of 16 is held by the Israeli authorities “as part of Israel’s system of control and repression.”
The Palestinians complain these checkpoints make their movements in their occupied lands near impossible and their lives very difficult.
HP is accused of being complicit in breaching the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states that, “everyone has the right to freedom of movement … within the borders of each state.”
However, while admitting providing maintenance smart cards for the BASEL system, the corporation says this is aimed at reducing friction between Palestinians and Israeli soldiers at checkpoints while expediting the passage of process.
The BASEL system "was developed and installed with the support from the United States and the European Union pursuant to a 1998 agreement between Israel and Palestine,” HP said in a letter sent to US-based anti-Israeli occupation groups.
However, Saleem said the Palestinian people, who are suffering from the Israeli military occupation, could not support such agreement.
In its letter, seen by Ahram Online, HP asserts its “uncompromising commitment to human rights,” which it considers “integral to its business strategy.”
HP is also providing technologies to major Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, including Ariel and Mod’in Illit.
The corporation explained that its subsidiary in Israel (HP Israel) does business with customers located in the municipalities in the occupied West Bank through commercial partners and general Israeli government tenders.
PSC said such business helps HP make profits from the illegal Israeli occupation.
HP has defended such business as “consistent with Israel law which prohibits discrimination based on an individual or entity’s presence in the West Bank.”
“HP's presence in the West Bank is on behalf of Israel which has no right to apply its laws there as it is an illegal occupier,” Saleem responded.
HP insists on impartiality
HP insists it is not its policy to take sides in political disputes between countries or regions.
Answering Ahram Online's questions, an HP spokeswoman affirmed the corporation “has been strongly committed to socially responsible business practices throughout its 75-year history.”
“Our work and products in Israel are consistent with our values and standards,” she said, adding: “We focus on making the best products we can to help improve the lives of people around the world.”
Saleem told Ahram Online that PSC will contact HP executives in UK and US for the first time next week to “urge them to stop their corporation’s support for Israel.”
Apart from HP, the BDS campaign list includes Ahava, G4S, Sodastream and Veolia. They are all accused of supporting the building, functioning or economy of illegal Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.
The BDS campaign is supported by many UK-based organisations such as Stop the War Coalition, the Palestine Return Centre, Friends of Al-Aqsa, the Muslim Association of Britain, and Jewish anti-Israeli groups in the UK and Europe.
PSC is among the largest independent, non-governmental and non-party political organisations, with members from many communities across Britain, Europe and the world.