Multinational infrastructure company Veolia has sold its last investment in Israel and its settlements.
According to Who Profits, a group that monitors companies that do business in Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip, the French multinational recently sold its 5 percent stake in CityPass, the consortium that runs the Jerusalem Light Rail.
The sale “is the final step in Veolia’s gradual withdrawal from the Israeli market and several illegal operations in the occupied Palestinian territory,” Who Profits states.
“Since the Israeli private sector, much like the Israeli government, considers the settlements as a legitimate part of Israel, Veolia’s Israeli subsidiaries operated freely beyond the Green Line [the 1949 armistice line separating the West Bank from present-day Israel],” Who Profits notes.
Their activities included running bus services to Israeli settlements, the operation of a landfill in the occupied Jordan Valley, treatment for settlements’ sewage and the construction and operation of the Jerusalem Light Rail.
The rail system was designed to connect the western part of Jerusalem with the Israeli settlements surrounding the city in the occupied West Bank, which are built in violation of international law.
The Veolia stake was sold to local Israeli investors despite the fact that the government wanted an experienced international operator to be involved.
“Due to the controversy surrounding the light rail, it appeared that international companies were hesitant to take on Veolia’s role,” Who Profits states.
In April, campaigners chalked up a victory after Veolia sold off all of its businesses linked to the Israeli occupation in the West Bank, except for the light rail.
“Grassroots BDS [boycott, divestment and sanctions] activism across the world made it very difficult for Veolia to win public contracts in some parts of Europe, the US and the Middle East, leaving the company no choice but to significantly scale back its involvement in illegal Israeli projects,” Mahmoud Nawajaa, the general coordinator of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC), said in a statement at the time.
“The sole purpose of the Jerusalem Light Rail is to increase the appeal and facilitate the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements through the theft of Palestinian land,” Nawajaa added. “We will continue to boycott Veolia until it ends its participation in the light rail project and pays reparations to those Palestinian communities impacted by its support for Israel’s colonization of Palestinian land.”
Who Profits says that though Veolia is no longer active in the Israeli market and in the occupied West Bank, it has “left behind irreversible facts on the ground.”
“The construction of the railway involved the expropriation of occupied land that was not done for the benefit of the occupied population, and hence contradicts international law and the Fourth Geneva Convention,” the group explains.
The railway continues to facilitate the colonization of Palestinian land east of occupied Jerusalem.
While campaigners have scored an important victory by forcing Veolia out of Israel, the question now arises as to how the company will be held accountable to Palestnians for the harm it has helped the Israeli occupation do over many years.