BDS Roundup: Veolia loses another major contract in UK

In this latest roundup of news from the global boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, protesters to greet CEO of Veolia Transportation in Boston; Veolia loses another multi-million dollar contract in the UK; the Technical University of Denmark drops scientific collaboration projects with an Israeli settlement; Israel’s government-funded dance company Batsheva continues to be protested on world tour while Gaza BDS activists produce video calling on boycotts of Batsheva; and protesters demonstrate outside of Israel’s Cameri Theatre performance in Delhi.

- Boston: Protesters to greet CEO of Veolia Transportation at Harvard Kennedy School on Wednesday

The Boston Coalition for Palestinian Rights stated in a press release sent to The Electronic Intifada on Tuesday that community and student activists will be protesting the visit of Veolia Transportation CEO Mark Joseph at the Harvard Kennedy School on Wednesday, 14 November.

Veolia’s subsidiary MBCR is vying for a “renewal of a controversial Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) contract to run the Massachusetts commuter rail,” states the press release, which adds:

Joseph will be met by community and student activists demanding answers as to why a subsidiary of Veolia Transport operates ethnically segregated trains and buses in the Israeli-occupied West Bank [including] East Jerusalem. Protesters will incorporate creative visuals and songs into their demonstration.

“The MBTA commuter rail is one of the largest privatized public transportation systems in the country,” said Liza Behrendt, a member of Jewish Voice for Peace. “A responsible state government should award this contract to a company that’s not involved in human rights abuses and violations of international law.”

- Canterbury, UK: Veolia fails to secure $63.5 million contract following BDS campaigners’ pressure on city council

In other Veolia news, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) stated in a press release emailed to The Electronic Intifada on 8 November that Veolia Environment “has failed in its bid to secure an 8-year, £40 million [$63.5 million] contract with Canterbury City Council in Britain. The council announced on 31st October that the current holder, Serco, was the successful bidder.”

The PSC press release adds:

In January 2012, local campaigners became aware that Veolia was going to be handed the portion of the contract that was in the remit of Canterbury City Council without it being put out to tender. The council rapidly backed down when its plan was highlighted by objectors to the company because of its complicity in the illegal occupation of Palestinian land.

In the first weeks, over 1,000 signatures were collected from Canterbury, Whitstable and Herne Bay citizens calling on the council to exclude Veolia from the bidding process. Local campaigners from the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, East Kent Justice for Palestinians, Stop the Cuts group and Whitstable Labour Party worked together to build the campaign against Veolia.

MP for Canterbury and Whitstable, Julian Brazier, facilitated a meeting between campaigners and a Veolia executive, Robert Hunt. Mr Hunt admitted that Veolia is a single entity.

Over the past ten months a procession of expert local speakers, including the former Bishop of Dover and Hugh Lanning, Chair of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC), spoke from the public benches in the council chamber, making the case for excluding Veolia due to “grave misconduct” as stipulated in procurement regulations.

… Diane Langford, from Faversham & Whitstable Palestine Solidarity Campaign, said: “We welcome the fact that Veolia has not won the £40 million waste management contract, and continue to call for Veolia and other complicit companies to withdraw from illegally-occupied Palestine. The campaign is part of a global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement against the illegal Israeli occupation. We will continue to work for justice, freedom and human rights for the Palestinian people and the end of tyrannical Israeli destruction of their lives and livelihood. We call on Canterbury City Council to deny any further bids for contracts from Veolia. We also appeal to local businesses not to renew or sign new contracts with this toxic company.”

Veolia has lost billions of dollars in contracts across Europe and Australia following sustained pressure by boycott activists on local city councils over the past few years.

- Denmark: Technical University of Denmark drops scientific collaboration projects with Israeli settlements

The Technical University of Denmark (DTU) has annouced that it has dropped out of a collaboration project with a university located in the illegal Ariel settlement inside the occupied West Bank.

DanWatch, a website which investigates and reports on corporate ethics, reported on 11 November that after it had presented information on Ariel settlement and the newly-upgraded university there, the president of DTU immediately ended the collaboration.

DanWatch adds in its report:

After DanWatch presented the information to the leadership of DTU, president of DTU Anders Bjarklev chose to stop the collaboration immediately: “We have ended the cooperation immediately after we were made aware of it,” he says: The money that was devoted to analyses in the laboratories of Ariel University has been suspended and will be paid back to the fund that supplied the finances.”

Acoording to DTU’s president, it is problematic for DTU to be associated with illegal settlements:

“If you fund analyses in laboratories at Ariel university, it can be seen as supporting a settlement, something we will not,” says Anders Bjarklev.

In DanWatch’s report, Danish Foreign Minister Villy Søvndal stated:

“We do not want to Danish scientific institutions participating in activities that may help to maintain the illegal settlements. If there has been any doubt about our position on this matter, the case of DTU is a good opportunity to reiterate. And I am satisfied with DTU’s decision.”

Last May, The Electronic Intifada reported that Søvndal announced that Denmark will begin labeling imported products for all goods from West Bank settlements which, as he said, “are illegal according to international law.”

DanWatch added in its 11 November article that although the Technical University of Denmark has ceased cooperation with an Israeli settlement, Denmark’s Roskilde University has defended its ongoing collaboration with another Israeli settlement’s industry because the European Union has “endorsed” such projects.

Again, DanWatch reports:

Roskilde University is part of a research project where Dead Sea Laboratories, which is behind the Ahava cosmetics products, participate. Dead Sea Laboratories is located in the settlement of Mitzpe Shalem and use natural resources from Palestinian territory according to the Israeli army.

According [to] Roskilde University president, Ib Poulsen, one does not need assess the ethics, if the research project is approved by the EU: “According to regulation of EU research projects by EU, including the EU’s approval of the projects, it is sufficient guarantee of the project’s legality for Danish participation, and thus a sufficiently non-controversial basis for a Danish university or another Danish public institution involved,” he says.

- Europe: Israel’s government-funded dance company Batsheva continues to be protested on world tour; Gaza BDS activists produce video calling on boycotts of Batsheva

Batsheva, the Israeli dance company funded by the Israeli government as part of the “Brand Israel” PR campaign, is being met by protesters on tour stops in Europe.

The group Don’t Dance With Israeli Apartheid (DDWIA) stated in a press release emailed to The Electronic Intifada that on 30 and 31 October, approximately 150 protesters stood outside Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre and called for the boycott of the dance company, adding that the performance “was interrupted by protests at least eight times while a good number who had bought tickets turned over their tickets to the protesters after learning of Batsheva’s link to the Israeli government.”

One week later, DDWIA reported that protesters in Rome “interrupted the show, sponsored by the Israeli Embassy and in the presence of the ambassador, to denounce the dance company´s role in providing a fig leaf for a decades-long brutal occupation and apartheid regime.”

The report added:

Chanting “Batsheva, you’re an accomplice! Say no to Occupation!”, the protesters called on the dancers to cut ties with Brand Israel, refuse funding from the Israeli government and take a stand, in words and in deed, against violations of Palestinian rights. Since 2010, similar appeals have been ignored by Batsheva, which continues to lend itself as a cultural ambassador for Israeli Apartheid.

The activists, while stressing the importance of international cultural events that promote music, dance and theater, insisted that there can be no place for art as propaganda. The direct links that Batsheva maintains with the Israeli government makes it impossible to describe the dance company as ‘apolitical’.

Three protesters were removed from the theater, taken to a nearby police station and released shortly afterwards.

More reports on Batsheva protests can be found on the DDWIA website.

Meanwhile, youth boycott activists in Gaza produced a short video appealing to people of conscience to boycott Batsheva’s performances. Produced by Malaka Mohammed and filmed by Hussein Amody — and featuring EI’s correspondent Shahd Abusalama, among others — the video “calls to boycott Batsheva, the dancing group that accepts Israeli regime funding and participates in ‘Brand Israel,’ using culture to mask Israel’s crimes against us in Gaza and the Palestinians elsewhere and Israel’s many violations of international and humanitarian law. By doing this, Batsheva meets the criteria set out initially by PACBI [the Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel] for cultural boycott.”

The youth activists announce at the end of the video: “We appeal to you from Gaza; to people of conscience; people who will not turn their backs on us; to all supporters of Palestinian rights; to attend the upcoming protests to boycott Batsheva.”

- Delhi: Protesters demonstrate outside of Israel’s Cameri Theatre performance

InCACBI, the Indian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel, reported that on 4 November, during a performance of Israel’s Cameri Theatre as part of the Delhi International Arts Festival, approximately 60 protesters gathered near the entrance of the Siri Fort auditorium.

The report stated that:

Their form of protest was an unusual one. All of them wore T-shirts which said, in bold black letters on white, No to Israeli Apartheid. There were no slogans or placards. Instead, they stood around the entrance, distributing leaflets and talking to theatre goers about the boycott. A few theatre goers actually responded and did not go in. A couple even joined the protest.

One woman, who took a T shirt to wear inside, found a different form of discrimination being practiced in the auditorium; the Israeli theatre goers were let in, but the Indians had to wait. She read the leaflet in her hand, came out to join the protestors.

As always with Israel-linked events, there was police presence, with a SWAT vehicle parked outside the auditorium. At first, the police did not interfere with the protestors as they distributed leaflets. But in a while, with instructions from above, the police force increased dramatically; policewomen arrived since many of the protestors were women; and a Black Maria made its appearance as well. Some of the policemen tried to provoke the protestors. The protestors remained peaceful but asserted their right to be there; they pointed out that they were not shouting slogans or stopping anyone from going in to the auditorium.

A clear message was sent to all present, theater-goers, organizers, annoyed Israelis, even a few curious policemen: Indians of conscience will not stand by while the State of Israel occupies Palestinian lands and imposes its apartheid policies on the Palestinian people.




Batsheva performed in Toronto this year without any protest, AFAIK.

Nora Barrows-Friedman

Nora Barrows-Friedman's picture

Nora Barrows-Friedman is a staff writer and associate editor at The Electronic Intifada, and is the author of In Our Power: US Students Organize for Justice in Palestine (Just World Books, 2014).