In 2005, just after the publication of the Palestinian call for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israeli apartheid, Palestinians began calling for an international boycott campaign against Veolia, a company involved in the Citypass Consortium, a scheme to build a tramline on occupied territory in the West Bank. Veolia is a huge multinational, that arguably has the biggest financial commitment of any international company to Israel’s colonisation of the West Bank. The Citypass SchemeBack in 2005, the target of forcing Veolia out of the Citypass scheme seemed an impossible goal for the fledgling BDS movement. Four years on, however, it seems that Veolia is desperate to pull out. In July, Ha’aretz reported that Veolia was trying to extricate itself from the project. Then in September, it was reported that Dan, an Israeli transport company, was set to buy Veolia’s $15 million stake in the scheme and that pressure from ‘pro-Palestinian groups’ was listed as one of the reasons for Veolia backing out. The buy-out still needs to be approved by the Israeli state and Veolia may stay involved for five years until it hands the project over to Dan. Nevertheless, it seems beyond doubt that Veolia has been forced to try to ditch a lucrative project due to grassroots pressure.
The BDS movement has shown that it has teeth. Veolia is reliant on large local government contracts for waste disposal, recycling, water and incineration. Many of these contracts are worth millions of pounds and last for up to twenty-five years. They are particularly vulnerable due to the size of the contracts; if grassroots pressure excludes them from tendering for just one project, the company may lose millions.
In its April/May newsletter, Corporate Watch detailed how Veolia had lost billions of dollars worth of projects in Spain, England, Ireland, France, Sweden and Australia. In all of these projects, Veolia has encountered grassroots groups citing the Citypass project as an illegal and unethical project. Veolia has since been excluded from the tendering process for a council contract in East Anglia after local campaigning. It is, therefore, not surprising that Veolia seems to have chosen to pull out of Citypass. The company, however, has two further schemes in the West Bank: the Tovlan Landfill and two bus routes servicing Israel’s illegal West Bank settlements.
Dumping Israel’s waste on the West Bank
TMM Integrated Recycling Services, a subsidiary of Veolia, operates a 33-hectare landfill site, the Tovlan landfill, inside the occupied West Bank, close to the town of Jericho. Veolia has leased the land, not from the Palestinian authority, but from the Israeli civil-military administration, whose occupation of the land is illegal under international law. The land where Tovlan is situated is partially under the control of a regional (Israeli) settlement council. Veolia argues that Tovlan provides services to Palestinians and Israeli settlers ‘indiscriminately’. The site also processes 200,000 tonnes per annum of waste from across the Green Line, effectively dumping waste from the state of Israel, the occupier, on the occupied. Tovlan is also involved in exploiting methane and other natural gases extracted from the site. Veolia boasts that the electricity produced from this gas is supplied to the local grid. However, 97% of the land in the Jordan Valley, where Tovlan is situated, is occupied by settlements, military bases, or is designated a ‘closed military area’. The majority of local Palestinians, under strict military regulations, have no right to build houses there, let alone access the electricity grid. The electricity produced by Tovlan, extracted from occupied territory, serves primarily to benefit the illegal settlers. Indeed, the Israeli flag can be seen flying outside the Tovlan depot beside Veolia’s corporate flag.
Veolia has also been seeking to enter the West Bank transport market, traditionally dominated by the Israeli Egged cooperative. Veolia currently operates bus services 109 and 110 along route 443, a road linking Jerusalem with the illegal West Bank settlements of Givat Ze’ev, Dotan and Beit Horon. The majority of Route 443 has been out of bounds to Palestinians since the second Intifada.
The international BDS campaign against Veolia has only just begun. Inducing the company to pull out of its settlement bus contracts should not be difficult. The Tovlan landfill is a more ambitious target. However, the BDS movement has shown that it is capable of challenging the profits of the largest companies. Veolia is likely to tender for waste contracts from local government in the Leeds and Leicestershire areas in the coming months, presenting more opportunities for grassroots campaigning.
For up to date information on Veolia contracts, see www.bigcampaign.org/veolia.
Original article at http://www.corporatewatch.org.uk/?lid=3433