Pressure is growing on the Dutch regional administrative council of Haaglanden — whose major city is The Hague — to end its business with Veolia Transport because of the deep complicity of Veolia Environment with grave Israeli violations of international law. Veolia is involved in projects that strengthen Israel’s illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank such as the Jerusalem Light Rail and the Tovlan landfill.
Earlier this month Dutch groups and the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq launched an effort to convince Haaglanden that Veolia should not be awarded the public transport contract.
This has now been joined by the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) and the Tel Aviv-based Coalition of Women for Peace and its research project Who Profits.
Meanwhile, a majority of the Dutch Parliament called on Haaglanden to postpone the decision because of the preparation of a law to abandon tender procedures for public services in the major cities.
Palestinian civil society calls on The Hague to uphold international law by excluding Veolia
On 16 May, the BNC, the largest Palestinian civil society coalition, called upon Haaglanden regional administrative council to exclude Veolia Transport from participating in the tender for public transport in The Hague. The BNC wrote:
Veolia Environnement companies are centrally involved in the Jerusalem Light Rail, which while disguised as a municipal infrastructure project is designed to serve the approximately 200,000 illegal Jewish settlers who reside within and around occupied East Jerusalem, reinforcing the unlawful Israeli annexation of Jerusalem and facilitating plans for further colonial expansion. Veolia also operates waste collection, sewage treatment and bus services for illegal Israeli colonies in occupied Palestinian territory (OPT). Despite attempts to mislead the public, Veolia remains an active and willing accomplice to Israel’s systematic violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in the OPT.
Who Profits submits report on Veolia’s grave misconduct in Israel and Palestine
In addition, the Tel Aviv-based Coalition of Women for Peace and its research project Who Profits wrote a letter to Haaglanden and its nine participating municipalities.
In light of the participation of Veolia in the tender, it is of utmost importance that you receive reliable information about the grave misconduct of Veolia in Israel and in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). Veolia Environment and its subsidiaries are involved in violations of international law and human rights and have a record of discriminatory practices in Israel and the OPT. Civil society organizations have been campaigning to encourage Veolia to cease from these practices. Nevertheless, the company continues its extensive involvement in the occupation of Palestinian Territories and its blatant disregard of ethical guidelines and international standards of social corporate responsibility.
Rights organizations remind Haaglanden of its legal obligations
Dutch rights organizations sent a fact file and a legal opinion to Haaglanden about Veolia’s activities in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. In the legal opinion, Dutch Attorney Phon van den Biesen reminds Haaglanden that Veolia has become complicit in Israel’s ongoing violations of international law through its involvement in Israeli projects in the occupied West Bank.
States are under an obligation not to render aid or assistance to such violations and to ensure compliance by Israel with international humanitarian law. The legal obligation also applies to state bodies, including municipalities and regional administrative councils. Van der Biesen argues that companies involved in Israel’s violations of international law should not be “rewarded” with public contracts of State bodies. Moreover, if a municipality decides to ignore its duties and award a contract to such a company, it will be vulnerable to be held legally liable by parties who suffered damages from these violations of international law.
However, a spokesperson from Haaglanden has claimed that there was no need to exclude Veolia from bidding, because the information presented to them is “one-sided.”
A Different Jewish Voice and legal expert criticize Haaglanden’s position
Jaap Hamburger, chairperson of A Different Jewish Voice who participate in action to end Veolia’s role in Haaglanden’s public transport, commented: “It is too easy to call it ‘one-sided’ information. The qualification doesn’t impress me as sincere or even professional, as it is a totally unspecified reproach first of all. Furthermore, the information is well researched, extremely factual and comprehensive and sources are referred to in footnotes throughout the article. Haaglanden has huge legal and financial responsibilities towards the public. It is neglecting what it is supposed to do as a civil service body, to at least examine the information assembled, to prevent contracting with a dubious partner and possible future damage to the public cause.”
Dr. Jeff Handmaker, Senior Lecturer in Law, Human Rights and Development at Erasmus University’s International Institute of Social Studies in The Hague commented: “It’s unfortunate of Mr. Veenman [spokesperson for Haaglanden] to dismiss the position of these respected organizations as a ‘one-sided position’. In fact, it is the very same position of the Hague Municipality, which is obliged to ensure respect for international law, including the laws of war. The Haaglanden regional government should be proud to host the ‘City of Peace and Justice’ [The Hague], that is home to the International Court of Justice. In 1907, this city hosted an historic conference that led to the Hague Convention respecting the Laws and Customs of War on Land. It is well documented that the government and military of Israel have violated the Hague Convention in numerous respects, the gravest of which amount to war crimes, and that the Veolia Corporation has been directly complicit in these violations. It would be a shame if the City of Peace and Justice also became complicit in these violations and allowed Haaglanden to award the tender to Veolia. The Hague and Haaglanden should not only set a good example as a matter of principle; they are required to do so as a matter of law.”