Protest at Wood Group AGM, May 14th, 2014

demo

On Wednesday 14th May individuals from Glasgow, Edinburgh, Perth and Dundee joined campaigners in the North East of Scotland to protest outside the Wood Group Annual General Meeting in Aberdeen.  The well-known Aberdeen-based company is putting the finishing touches on a power station in Ashkelon that will soon provide 8% of Israel’s electricity1. The protest was led by the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, aimed at raising the awareness of shareholders and the public of what Wood Group was making itself complicit in by building such a plant.  Over 40 protestors gathered outside the venue to engage with shareholders and the public, while a further 4 protestors/shareholders gained entry to the AGM itself.

Powering…the Israeli Ministry of Defence

As the power station built by Wood Group will see the first privatisation of electricity in Israel, many of the direct “buyers” of the energy are known2.  One such benefactor of the Wood Group power station is the Israeli Ministry of Defence, responsible for massacres in Gaza, torture, imprisonment without trial, and daily human rights abuses – all in breach of international law.

Powering…Israeli Apartheid

Protestors outside held up a large banner stating: “Wood Group: Stop Powering Israeli Apartheid”.  The WG power station is located about 10km north of the Gaza Strip, providing state of the art energy technology to Israel while Israel continues to enforce a siege on the Gaza Strip. Restrictions there on fuel, electricity and materials for essential maintenance result in lengthy daily blackouts; which is a major impact on aspects of life including health, education and sanitation.

“Did you know that while your life depends on power, people in the Gaza strip today will get power for less than 12 hrs and have to power up the rest of the night by candles or diesel generators after the Israeli government targeted the sole power plant and imposed a blockade that has lasted for over seven years? Did you know that when the lights are out, Palestinians can see nearby Israeli-lit areas from inside Gaza city? Say NO for this inhumane treatment and boycott companies that power Israeli settlements” Rafat Abushaban, grassroots activist, Gaza

Electricity from the plant will also be sold to Mekerot, the Israeli state water company responsible for enforcing water apartheid, e.g. the “redistribution” of water from the West Bank to illegal settlements in the West Bank.  Protestors inside the AGM raised the issue of water apartheid with one SPSC member drinking from a bottle of discoloured water from Gaza, asking other shareholders to take a drink and discover what the product of water apartheid really tastes like.

 “What do you expect? We’re an oil company!”

At the AGM shareholders were reminded of Wood Group’s core values which “define who we are” as stated in the main slogan. Such core values included “social responsibility … to make a positive difference to the communities in which we operate and seek ways to assist them”. When protestors inside the AGM noted that building a power plant in Ashkelon is not consistent with their social responsibility policy and highlighted the inhumane consequences of the energy crisis in nearby Gaza perpetrated by Israel, the Chairman and the CEO replied that all their business operations are legal and that addressing humanitarian concerns is not within their remit as oil company. The CEO also repeatedly stated that Wood Group’s role in Israel was to build the infrastructure to produce the energy and that they are not responsible for how energy is used.

 

“The company considers this project as a cornerstone for extensive operations in Israel”

Inside the AGM the Wood Group board were urged to reconsider its stated intention to expand its operations in Israel.  Members of the board responded by saying they couldn’t comment on further operations as the information is protected by commercial confidentiality, however the likelihood of Wood Group furthering their complicity in apartheid Israel is high.  Earlier this year Wood Group proudly sponsored the Eastern Mediterranean Gas Conference in Tel Aviv aimed at “shaping the future of Israel’s oil and gas industry”.

Wide support

The day’s events were filmed by Al Jazeera as part of a documentary on the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign, and were reported in the local and national media.

The protest received wide support from organisations in Aberdeen, as well as nationally.  Those endorsing the protest included: Friends of the Earth Scotland, Dundee TUC, Aberdeen UCU, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, the Public and Commercial Services union, Aberdeen Radical Independence Campaign, Aberdeen CND and the Iona Community and UNITE the Union, issued by General Secretary Len McCluskey.  Aberdeen Trades Union Council issued the following statement:

“Aberdeen Trades Union Council is proud to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people, a people resisting with dignity against the Israeli government’s policies of apartheid, occupation and ethnic cleansing.  ATUC gives its full support to the campaign calling for Wood Group to end its operations in Israel; operations that are helping to perpetuate daily and systemic human rights abuses against Palestinians.  Just as trade unionists played a key role in ending this city’s complicity with apartheid South Africa, today we march in the streets and send a clear message to our comrades in Palestine – we will not go home until apartheid is over.”  Aberdeen TUC