Who Profits, a project of the Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace, has uncovered evidence that Veolia is involved in dumping Israeli waste at the company’s site in Tovlan in the occupied Jordan Valley. The Israeli Civil Administration confirmed this in response to an application by Who Profits under the Freedom of Information Law.
In a newsletter of 21 November 2011, Who Profits writes that, according to the Civil Administration, eight Israeli companies hold permits to transfer waste to Tovlan landfill, including Veolia subsidiaries TMM Integrated Recycling Services and YRAV Sherutei Noy 1985.
The information provided by the Civil Administration shows that waste from recycling factories in Israel and from the Hiriya site (southeast of Tel Aviv) is transported to Tovlan landfill. The recycling factories are located in the areas of HaSharon, Sgula, Haifa and Afula. Who Profits writes:
The waste transferred to the landfill consists of municipal solid waste, construction waste, sterilized medical waste and electronic waste. The Civil Administration mentioned that there is no permit for bringing hazardous waste into the site.
The average amount of waste that originates inside Israel and is permitted to be buried in the site is 19,000 tons a month.
Tovlan landfill is built on stolen Palestinian land. The landfill serves the needs of the Israeli population. Under international law, Israel is prohibited from using occupied land for the sole benefit of its own civilian population. In Resolution 63/201 of 28 January 2009, the UN General Assembly explicitly addressed the issue. It called :
upon Israel, the occupying Power, to cease the dumping of all kinds of waste materials in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan, which gravely threaten their natural resources, namely water and land resources, and pose an environmental hazard and health threat to the civilian populations.
Meanwhile, Veolia digs its heels deeper into the Israeli occupation by offering services to the Israeli army. In mid-August of this year, according to the Who Profits newsletter, Veolia subsidiary YRAV Sherutei Noy 1985 won a contract for waste collection services from the Israeli army bases in the Jordan Valley.
Freedom Riders call for global boycott and divestment from Veolia
Palestine solidarity organizations and concerned citizens have pressurized Veolia to withdraw from Israeli projects in the occupied territories. In addition to its operations in Tovlan landfill, Veolia is involved in the Jerusalem Light Rail project that links West Jerusalem with illegal settlements in the West Bank. Veolia also operates bus services to illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank along road 443. This road is often referred to as an apartheid road, because Palestinians are prohibited from driving on almost all segments of it.
Recently, the Palestinian Freedom Riders gave the Derail Veolia campaign a boost by boarding one of these segregated settler buses to Jerusalem. The Freedom Riders aimed to expose the fact that Veolia and Israeli Egged – the companies that run settler bus lines – “profit from Israel’s apartheid policies and [they] encourage global boycott of and divestment from them.” In a statement they write:
The Israeli Egged and French Veolia bus companies operate dozens of segregated lines that run through the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, many of them subsidized by the state. Both companies are also involved in the Jerusalem Light Rail, a train project that links illegal settlements in East Jerusalem to the western part of the city. By facilitating population transfer into occupied Palestinian territory, Egged and Veolia are actively and knowingly complicit in Israel’s settlement enterprise, which the International Court of Justice has determined to be a breach of international law, and particularly Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibiting an occupying power from transferring part of its population into occupied territory.
Action in the US and Europe
Jewish Voice for Peace in the US supported the Palestinian Freedom Riders with a video, stating that: “People from Baltimore to Oakland demonstrated in solidarity with the freedom riders, some targeting Veolia, a corporation that runs a segregated bus in Palestine.”
In Boston, US, activists used the occasion of the freedom rides to launch their Derail Veolia campaign with mass flyering at the main commuter railway station.
In the Netherlands, many organizations protested the decision of Stadregio Arnhem Nijmegen – a local authority – to award a one billion euro public transport contract to Hermes. The company is a subsidiary of Veolia Transdev. In an interview with a local newspaper, De Gelderlander, former Dutch Prime Minister Dries van Agt called on the local authority to exclude Veolia Transdev from bidding because of the company’s involvement in the Jerusalem Light Rail. In addition, more than 20 organizations supported this view in a letter to the Stadsregio.
Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq formally objected to the decision of Stadsregio Arnhem Nijmegen. Their objection is based on Veolia’s involvement in Israel’s violations of international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. In a press statement on their objection, Al-Haq writes:
The Dutch civil society organisations Palestine Committee Nijmegen (also representing the Network Working Together for Palestine) and United Civilians for Peace (UCP) together with A Different Jewish Voice have taken similar initiatives to challenge the decision.
At the end of October, Ben White reported in his blog on The Electronic Intifada that in the UK, the majority of Cambridge University students who voted in a referendum backed the call for the University to cancel its contract with Veolia.
As long as Veolia is complicit in Israel’s grave violations of international law, it will continue to feel the heat of the global Derail Veolia and Alstom campaign.