The Veolia parent company is Veolia Environnment, a French multinational. Veolia Transportation, a subsidiary of Veolia Environnement, is a leading partner in the CityPass consortium that built the light-rail tramway linking west Jerusalem to illegal Jewish settlements in occupied east Jerusalem. The tramway cements Israel’s hold on occupied east Jerusalem and ties the settlements even more firmly into the State of Israel. And not only the settlements in east Jerusalem: the “Ammunition Hill” station of the network operates as the feeder station for settler traffic from Ma’aleh Adumim, a large Israeli settlement in the West Bank, and from Jewish settlements in the Jordan Valley.
The line opened in 2011, with Veolia responsible for its operation. With its involvement in this project, the company is directly implicated in maintaining illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territory and is playing a key role in Israel’s attempt to make its annexation of the Palestinian territory of east Jerusalem irreversible. Further, as a willing agent of these policies, Veolia is undermining the chances of a just peace for the Palestinian people.
Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the annexation of East Jerusalem are illegal under international law. Numerous UN resolutions and the 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the wall have confirmed this. The settlements violate Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention: “…The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies” as well as Article 53 forbidding destruction of property. In some cases in East Jerusalem these violations amount to war crimes, i.e. “grave breaches” of the Convention (see Articles 146 and 147), as they involve extensive appropriation of Palestinian property not justified by military necessity. These grave breaches are being facilitated by Veolia’s part in the construction and operation of the tramway serving the settlements. The tramway also constitutes a significant alteration of the infrastructure of the occupied Palestinian territories contrary to the Hague Regulations of 1907, Section 3, also part of international law.
Veolia published an advertisement recruiting operators for the tramway requiring Hebrew to mother tongue standard, no mention of Arabic. Full army or civic service was also required, i.e. no Palestinians.
In April 2010 the UN Human Rights Council declared the tramway and its operation to be illegal (A/HRC/RES/13/7 of 14 April 2010). The resolution was passed 46 to 1, with the UK, France and all the EU members of the Council voting in favour. The operation of the tramway is precisely what Veolia is now doing. The Council reiterated its condemnation of the tramway at its 22nd Session in March 2013.
On 25 October 2012, Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, told the UN General Assembly that companies profiting from Israel’s illegal settlements, including Veolia, should be boycotted (http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=43376#.UWbrerWkpu8).
Through its involvement in the building and operation of this tramway linking Israel’s illegal settlements with West Jerusalem, Veolia is facilitating Israel’s ‘grave breaches’ of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and is complicit in its perpetuation of those breaches. In other words, Veolia is involved in aiding and abetting on-going war crimes. It is also facilitating, exacerbating, aiding and abetting Israel’s breach of the Hague Regulations.
Veolia also runs at least four bus services serving the same function as the tramway: supporting and consolidating illegal settlements and tying them more closely into Israel. Services 109 and 110, operated by its local company Connex, link the West Bank settlements of Mevo Horon, Giv’at Ze’ev and Givon to Israel. Palestinians living in the West Bank cannot use these services for much of the route. Services 7 and 19 link the Israeli town of Modin to the settlements of Mevo Horon, Hashmonaim and Kfar Ha’oranim. The latter two illegal settlements are built on the land of the Palestinian villages of Bilin and Nilin which hold regular demonstrations against the theft of their land. (More on Veolia’s bus services at http://electronicintifada.net/blog/adri-nieuwhof/veolia-keeps-silent-about-two-bus-services-illegal-settlements).
In March 2011 the Veolia Transport Division of Veolia Environnement merged with Transdev to form Veolia Transdev. The merged company is 50% owned by Veolia Environnement. Veolia Environnement therefore still bears very substantial responsibility for Veolia Transdev’s wholly owned subsidiary Veolia Transportation Israel. In 2013 Veolia Transdev was renamed Transdev.
Veolia’s support for settlements is not only through Veolia Transportation Israel. Through its subsidiary TMM, Veolia Environmental Services Israel has been operating the Tovlan landfill site in the occupied Jordan Valley for many years. During this time Tovlan has been supporting Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank by taking their refuse. Tovlan also receives refuse from Israel itself and the Israeli army, the occupier dumping its rubbish on the occupied. Subsidiary companies of Veolia Environmental Services are amongst those transporting the refuse to Tovlan. UN General Assembly Resolution 63/201 of 28 January 2009 called on Israel to stop dumping waste in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Despite this Veolia continues with this activity.
Veolia says that it is selling Tovlan to a local buyer, but far from ending Veolia’s complicity, the deal would compound it, for the intended sale is to Massu’a, the nearby illegal Israeli settlement. Moreover Veolia would continue its involvement by providing the settlement with advice concerning Tovlan. Veolia’s involvement with Tovlan is not affected by the Veolia Transportation/Transdev merger, for the subsidiary concerned is part of Veolia Environnement’s Environmental Services Division.
Veolia’s support for Israel’s illegal settlements breaches its obligations with respect to codes of conduct and conventions such as the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises (2000) and the UN Global Compact (2000). The latter’s first two principles state that businesses should support and respect the protection of international human rights within their spheres of influence and make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses. Yet by supporting Israel’s illegal settlements Veolia flagrantly violates both of these provisions.