Veolia subsidiary Connex operates bus lines to illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank (Photo: Anne Paq/ActiveStills)
Dutch and Palestinian human rights organizations are calling for the Dutch regional administrative council of Haaglanden — whose major city is The Hague — to exclude Veolia Transport from bidding for a bus contract, because of the firm’s role in projects that strengthen Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank such as the Jerusalem Light Rail and the Tovlan landfill.
Call on Haaglanden to end its business with Veolia
Dutch rights organizations A Different Jewish Voice and United Civilians for Peace (UCP) sent a joint letter, a fact file and a legal opinion to Haaglanden about Veolia’s activities in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. The organizations argued that Veolia should be excluded from the public tender, and that under no circumstances should it be awarded the contract to operate the public transport in Haaglanden. Yet so far, Haaglanden officials are refusing to change their policy, claiming that the information presented to them is “one-sided.”
UCP was founded by four major Dutch non-governmental organizations IKV Paxchristi, Oxfam Novib, Cordaid and ICCO. An English translation of the 12-page fact file on Veolia’s activities was published today by A Different Jewish Voice, as well as the legal opinion of Attorney Phon van der Biesen (in Dutch).
The fact file provides useful up-to-date information for activists involved in the international Derail Veolia Campaign.
The Hague: A city of peace and justice?
Palestinian human rights group Al Haq also called on Haaglanden “to reconsider its association with the Veolia Group’s businesses and to immediately exclude Veolia Transport Nederland from the public transport tender”. Al Haq said in a press release:
Participation of a company with a disputed reputation and involvement in illegal activities in the [occupied Palestinian territories] in The Hague’s public transport tender is particularly problematic, due to the city’s reputation as the “International City of Peace and Justice.” Commenting on the issue, Al-Haq Director Shawan Jabarin stated: “How can the city of The Hague consider allowing its citizens and employees of international institutions, courts and tribunals tasked with contributing towards peace and justice world wide, to make use of a public transportation service which is operated by a company involved in violations of international law?
Veolia’s complicity in Israeli violations of international law
Veolia’s role in the Jerusalem Light Rail which connects West Jerusalem with illegal settlements in occupied East Jerusalem is well-documented as is its role in Tovlan Landfill in the Jordan Valley where waste is dumped from settlements and municipalities in Israel; in the operation of bus services to illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank; and in the treatment of sewage from the settlement Modi’in Illit.
In “Time to hold Veolia to account,” Daniel Machover and I wrote about the Jerusalem Light Rail:
Israeli settlements in the OPT 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 Israel’s wall in the West Bank have confirmed this. The settlements violate Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention — which states “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,” as they involve extensive appropriation of Palestinian property not justified by military necessity (see Articles 146 and 147 of the convention).
These grave breaches are being facilitated by Veolia’s part in the construction and future operation of the tramway serving the settlements. The tramway also constitutes a significant alteration of the infrastructure of the OPT contrary to the Hague Regulations of 1907, Section 3, which Israel accepts as binding international law. Through its involvement in the building and future operation of the 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 actions. In other words, Veolia is involved in aiding and abetting ongoing war crimes. It is also facilitating, exacerbating, aiding and abetting Israel’s breach of the Hague Regulations.
Many municipalities have already shunned Veolia
The fact file on Veolia sums up the city councils which adopted motions on the exclusion of Veolia from bidding for public contracts. In addition, the file lists the contracts Veolia lost in towns where Palestine solidarity activists campaigned against the company because of its involvement in Israeli violations of rights of the Palestinian people.
European law in fact empowers local municipalities to take such actions. It states that “any firm may be excluded from participation in tender competitions who has been guilty of grave professional misconduct proven by any means which the contracting authorities can justify” (Article 45 of Directive 2004/18/EC of the European Parliament and Council of 31st March 2004). This directive on the co-ordination of procedures for the award of public works contracts, public supply contracts and public services contracts provides the basis for such activism. EU member states have the obligation to implement European law in their national laws as is the case in the Netherlands.
Region Haaglanden dismisses “One-sided information”
Today, I called Jan Willem Veenman, spokesperson for Haaglanden, to learn if the administration received the documents from Al Haq, A Different Jewish Voice and UCP. He confirmed receipt, but informed me that “at the moment there was no reason to change the procedure on the basis of one-sided information.”
The Hague is the International City of Peace and Justice, after New York the second city of the United Nations, according to the city’s website. “There are 131 international organisations in The Hague, employing around 14,000 people dedicated to the cause of world peace. As far away as Sarajevo, Nairobi and Kabul, the name ‘The Hague’ represents hope: hope for millions of people that the crimes perpetrated against them will not go unpunished. Hope for a peaceful future.”
The PLO, the Palestinian Boycott Divestment and Sanctions National Committee -– representing over 170 civil organizations -– Kairos Palestine, and Al Haq have clearly protested Veolia’s role in crimes Israel perpetrated against the Palestinian people.
The Hague should live up to its reputation of “City of Peace and Justice”. It cannot write off the information of rights organizations as “one-sided.” Instead, The Hague should make sure that Haaglanden will not award the seven-year bus contract to Veolia.