At the BT shareholders AGM on 14th July the CWU raised a question on behalf of the campaign. Please see the question and response below:
Phil Matthews (CWU) put the question to the BT Board
“My question is about BT’s alliance with the Israeli telecommunications company Bezeq International, who’s parent company, Bezeq, provides services to Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories.
Israel’s settlement policy is widely condemned by the international community as an obstacle to peace and in breach of international law, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
It’s true that Palestinian Telecoms company Pal-Tel has dealings with Bezeq, but that is because they are forced to use Israeli infrastructure because they are forbidden from installing their own infrastructure in 60% of the Occupied West Bank.
What assurances can you give today that in the interests of upholding BT’s commitment to “ensuring that it is not complicit in human rights abuses” and in the interests of maintaining BT’s reputation for corporate responsibility, BT will disassociate itself from Bezeq and its operations in the occupied Palestinian territories?
Sir Michael Rake, the BT Chairman, answered the question by saying:
“We are extremely conscious of our responsibility to communities and our brand. Bezeq is the main provider of telecommunications services in Israel, BT is a global company, and we have alliances with leading telecommunications companies right across the world. Our strong legal advice is that we are not breaching any laws”.
The position appeared to be that if BT was to be successful as a global company it needed to have alliances with major companies abroad. This is an alliance based on commercial interests and the company does not believe it calls into question or damages its reputation on corporate responsibility.
Phil then came back in to say
“We know that this is something that many organisations feel strongly about including Jews for Justice for Palestine, and I would urge you strongly to look at this again and reconsider”.
Sir Michael Rake simply responded
“Thank you, ok, thank you for your question”.