Thousands of people across Scotland will be voicing not their congratulations but their outrage as Wood Group announced this week that its 2014 revenue rose by 7.8% to $7.6 billion and its profits after tax rose from $300.5 million in 2013 to $336.3 million in 2014.
These profits are at the expense of Palestinians in Gaza, as Wood Group was responsible for the building of power station in Ashkelon in Israel, just miles from Gaza, in a £563 million contract. Through the private market Wood Group’s Ashkelon plant directly supplies power to the Israeli Ministry of Defence, which bears responsibility for last year’s brutal onslaught on the Gaza Strip. It also supplies, again as a private customer, Israel’s national water company, which is heavily implicated in the theft of Palestinian water resources, and various private companies which operate from illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian territory.
While Wood Group prospered in 2014, the fortunes of Gaza plummeted. In July and August, 2205 Palestinians were killed there, 1483 being civilians. The Wood Group’s website boasts of its “social responsibility value” and commitment to building one house in Tanzania. Yet through their support of Israel, they contributed to the destruction of 14 000 housing units in Gaza which left half a million people displaced. 108 000 remain homeless. The overall repair bill has been estimated as $6 billion, a horrifying contrast to the Wood Group profits.
Far from having social responsibility, this is a company that facilitates, and profits from, the destruction of the infrastructure of Gaza. For example, higher education establishments in Gaza were directly targeted by Israeli forces, in flagrant breach of international law. 421 students and 9 staff members were killed, mostly by shelling. 14 establishments were damaged, with an estimated repair bill of $16 million.
Last year also saw activists for Palestinian solidarity demonstrate at the Wood Group AGM in Aberdeen in May. Early in 2015 members of Aberdeen SPSC arranged a meeting with CEO Bob Keiller, who continued to fail to give answers to very basic questions about their involvement in the illegal activities of an apartheid state, and to address their accountability.
So while Wood Group greets 2015 with optimism, stating that its strong cash generation and robust balance sheet provide security and flexibility, what does the year ahead hold for Gaza? What security and flexibility are its population afforded? Rafat Abushaban, a Palestinian activist living in Gaza, reports:
The current power crisis in the Gaza strip is at an all-time high, with cuts ranging from 12-18 hours daily and impacting the lives of 1.8 million people. This has been affecting basic services such as water supply, sanitation, health and education. Since the end of the latest Israeli massacre on Gaza five months ago, life has become increasingly difficult with a tightened siege that has blocked basic goods, including fuel used to run emergency generators, while aid and reconstruction efforts are paralyzed as a result of funding shortage coupled with the ongoing Israeli blockade
That certainly looks bleak, but while the lives of the Gazan population of 1.8 million remain in tatters, we will continue to fight for justice and for their human rights and to ensure that companies such as Wood Group are brought to account.