Tuesday, December 27, 2011

EU takes account, and Veolia counts the cost

IN an apparent change from the days when Britain used its presidency of the European Union to suppress a report criticising Israeli policy on the West Bank, the EUs ambassador to Israel has submitted a formal protest to the Israeli Foreign Ministry over plans to displace Bedouin, and demolition of Palestinian homes in the E1 area near the West Bank settlement of Ma'aleh Adumim.

The EU Ambassador, Andrew Standley, also expressed profound concern over the deterioration in the Palestinian residents situation in the West Bank Area C, under Israeli control. He cited the rise in the number of houses demolished by Israel, an excess of 500 in 2011, resulting in more than 1,000 Palestinians displaced.

The Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions (ICAHD) is taking some credit for ensuring that European governments and the EU are kept aware of what is going on. It says that after a briefing and field visit lead by ICAHD Co-Director Itay Epshtain, and Advocates Michael Sfard and Emily Schaeffer, European foreign ministers received a report compiled by the European consuls in Ramallah and East Jerusalem on the situation of the Palestinians in Area C of the West Bank.

"The report cited a rise in the number of Palestinian houses demolished by Israel, and the growing distress of the Palestinians living in Area C. "ICAHD has long cautioned about the emergence of a greater Jerusalem" said Epshtain "linking the Judaization of East Jerusalem and displacement of Bedouin in E1, with the development of Ma'aleh Adumim, all the way to the Jordan Valley."

"The significance of this development is not only the creation of a greater Jerusalem that controls the center of the West Bank" says ICAHD Director Dr. Jeff Halper "but the emergence of Israeli Occupation territorial contiguity, that effectively eliminates the two state solution."

Halper referred to the EU protest saying: "The EU is picking up on ICAHD's long standing analysis which connects seemingly unrelated developments on the ground to the larger political picture."

According to Haaretz, EU foreign ministers have also received information from human rights organizations, referring to ICAHD's publication'Nowhere left to Go: Arab al-Jahalin Bedouin Ethnic Displacement', saying Israel is planning to forcefully transfer some 3,000 Bedouins of the Arab al-Jahalin tribe from their residence in the E1 area, to allow for the expansion of illegal settlement Ma'aleh Adumim.

In November 2011, Israel expropriated 1.5 km2 of Palestinian land in the northern Jordan Valley and de-facto annexed the land to a Jewish community within Israel proper. This is considered the first instance of Palestinian land in the Occupied West Bank to be annexed to Israel, (excluding East Jerusalem) in defiance of international law.

In his May 2011 address to US Congress, Israeli PM Netanyahu asserted that "Israel will never cede the Jordan Valley. Israel would never agree to withdraw from the Jordan Valley under any peace agreement signed with the Palestinians. And it‘s vital – absolutely vital – that Israel maintain a long-term military presence along the Jordan River."

The Path to Annexation – 2011 Fact Sheet published by ICAHD highlights the matrix of control laid over the Jordan Valley, the legal framework, fact and figures associated with the de-facto annexation of the Jordan Valley.
To download the fact sheet, press here…




Meanwhile, in London, campaigners celebrated the good news before Christmas that French-owned company Veolia appears to have been left out of the bidding for a £485 million contract for the West London Waste Authority ('WLWA') , covering disposal and treatment of of residual domestic waste from o1.4 million inhabitants of the London boroughs of Brent, Ealing, Harrow, Hillingdon, Hounslow and Richmond-upon-Thames.

The reasons behind the decision by the WLWA to exclude Veolia from the short list are commercially confidential. The company has a wide range of business in Britain, from water supply to bus services. It has recently lost contracts in Richmond and Ealing, and been criticised for wanting to cut street cleaning it carries out in Brent.

But what has really engaged the activity of Palestinian solidarity and human rights campaigners is Veolia's involvent in projects assisting and profiting from Israel's occupation and colonisation in the West Bank. Together with another French company Alstom (formerly better-known in Britain as Connex) it has been involved in the Jerusalem light railway project which links illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank with Jerusalem, helping to reinforce the cordon of settlements which separates the city, including Arab East Jerusalem from its hinterland.

Veolia also runs bus services whose segregated character was exposed recently by Palestinian youth who were arrested for boarding the bus at certain points (and one of them simply for being at the stop).

Over the last six months campaigners in London lobbied local councillors and officials to exclude Veolia from the waste contracts, and submitted a letter to the WLWA documenting Veolia's direct complicity in grave breaches of international and humanitarian law in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

Besides the transport issues, - including what amounts to discrimination in recruitment of staff - campaigners also pointed to Veolia involvment in taking waste from Israel and illegal Israeli Settlements and dumps this on Palestinian land at the Tovlan landfill, in the Jordan valley.

Some of this information came from the Israeli human rights group B'Tselem in its report on the Jordan valley, and in North London where councils are considering a contract similar to the West London one, they received a letter from the coalition of women;s peace groups in Israel and Palestine. The campaign in west London had support from the Green Party and more recently from Brent Trades Union Council.

There are signs that Veolia would like to divest from its controversial Palestine involvments as its business elsewhere starts to suffer. Alstom has already been hit by institutional investers in Holland and Norway deciding to pull out, and it suffered the loss of a major rail contract in Saudi Arabia following publicity over its Israeli operations.






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