London media discussion heats up after UN official warns against waste contract to occupation profiteer Veolia

No to Veolia Action Group members demonstrate in north London, November 2012


Last week, Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the occupied Palestinian territories lent his support to efforts to keep occupation profiteer Veolia from winning a lucrative waste management contracts in seven north London districts.

In a letter published on my blog, Falk urged the North London Waste Authority (NLWA) not to award the multi-billion pound contracts to Veolia “due to its deep and ongoing complicity with Israeli violations of international law.” He warned NLWA that “to provide access to public funds to Veolia may contravene the UK’s international legal obligation not to facilitate Israeli violations of international law.” Falk’s intervention drew the attention of local newspapers, the Hackney Gazette and Enfield Gazette & Advertiser.

Veolia continues to be involved in Jerusalem light rail despite claim

The Guardian (a local paper, not the national newspaper with the same name) also picked up Falk’s letter, reporting that, a “UN official has warned that Waltham Forest Council may break international law if it gives public money to a firm which he says is complicit in the running of Israel’s illegal settlements.” 

Guardian also reported that Veolia had pulled out of the Jerusalem light rail project last year. The story’s writer Daniel Binns told me that Veolia had provided this information. Following a conversation with me by telephone, Binns corrected the article by adding “Mr Falk said the firm [Veolia] owns approximately 80 per cent of Connex Jerusalem, which is the company that operates the trains.”

NLWA also knows that Veolia’s claim it pulled out of the Jerusalem light rail is not true, because Who Profits? - a research project of the Tel Aviv-based Coalition of Women for Peace – informed NLWA about this. The Electronic Intifada received a copy of Who Profits? letter of 11 November to NLWA:

Veolia Transportation has been contracted for the construction of the Jerusalem Light Rail. The main aim of the project is to connect the illegal settlements built on occupied Palestinian land of East Jerusalem with the Israeli territory of West Jerusalem. The construction of the rail route itself involves exploitation of an occupied land that is not in the service of the occupied population, and hence violates International Humanitarian Law and the fourth Geneva Convention.

The present involvement of Veolia in this project is two-fold:

  1. Veolia Transportation owns 5% of CityPass – the group that won the tender to establish and operate the Jerusalem Light Rail Project until 2036.

  2. Veolia Transportation owns approximately 80% of Connex Jerusalem Ltd, which provides all services of operation and maintenance for the Light Rail.

Despite the company’s announcement from October 2010; that it would sell its shares in CityPass and in Connex Jerusalem Ltd. Veolia is still holds its shares in these companies.

In a report to the UN General Assembly, Falk addressed the legal responsibility of companies involved in activities relating to Israel’s settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories. Falk’s research into Veolia’s activities confirms that “Veolia has a 5 per cent share in the CityPass consortium, through its subsidiary Connex Israel, which was contracted by Israel to operate the light rail project in Jerusalem. The light rail is designed to connect the city of Jerusalem with Israel’s illegal settlements. Veolia owns approximately 80 per cent of Connex Jerusalem, the company which operates the trains. Falk’s report is also available in Arabic. What all this adds up to is that Veolia is still deeply involved in the project.

Veolia is involved in Tovlan landfill

An email of 7 November written by Feryal Demirci – councilor in Hackney, one of the north London districts included in the waste contracts - reveals that Veolia told NLWA it had no longer any interest in Tovlan Landfill in the occupied West Bank. However facts presented in the Who Profits? paint a different picture:

Veolia Environmental Services Israel, a subsidiary of Veolia, owns and operates the Tovlan Landfill in the occupied Jordan Valley. The waste transferred to the Tovlan Landfill originates from recycle factories from within Israel and from settlements in the West Bank. The company uses captured Palestinian land and natural resources for the needs of Israeli settlements from both sides of the green line.

Moreover, in August 2011, Y.R.A.V Sherutei Noy 1985, a subsidiary of Veolia through TTM, won a tender to collect waste from the Israeli army bases in the occupied Jordan Valley.

In a response to an inquiry by Who Profits on October 10th, 2011, the Israeli Civil Administration enumerated eight Israeli companies which hold permits to transfer waste to the Tovlan landfill, including Veolia subsidiaries: TMM Integrated Recycling Services and YRAV Sherutei Noy.

Richard Falk confirms Veolia’s continued involvement in Tovlan landfill in his report to the UN General Assembly.

Furthermore, through its subsidiary company the Israeli Veolia group 40 Veolia owns and operates the Tovlan landfill in the Jordan Valley of the occupied Palestinian territory. The Tovlan landfill is used to dump Israeli waste from both within Israel and Israeli settlements.” In addition, Veolia “furthermore operates buses linking Modi’in and Jerusalem via road 443 and thereby servicing the Israeli settlements of Giva’at Ze’ev and Mevo Horon.

In response to a request to comment on Falk’s letter to NLWA made by Guardian, a Veolia spokesman cited Susan Rice, US Ambassador to the UN, who described Mr Falk as “highly biased.” Instead of responding to the facts presented by Richard Falk, Veolia has chosen to attack the messenger.

Meanwhile, No to Veolia Action Group keeps the pressure on NLWA to not accept Veolia’s bid for the multi-billion contracts in north London. On Friday 23 November the group will stage a protest at Camden Town Hall Judd St WC1H 9JE at 11 am.


Adri Nieuwhof

Adri Nieuwhof's picture

Adri Nieuwhof is a human rights advocate based in the Netherlands and former anti-apartheid activist at the Holland Committee on Southern Africa. Twitter: @steketeh