German construction giant HeidelbergCement is expanding its plunder of Palestinian resources, a war crime punishable under German and international law.
HeidelbergCement operates a stone quarry in the occupied West Bank without permission of the Palestinians.
After exhausting the Nahal Raba quarry, the Israeli army has now given the firm permission to exploit another 25 acres of occupied West Bank land.
The Palestinian people’s right to self-determination includes permanent sovereignty over natural resources, even while under occupation.
Israel has no authority to grant HeidelbergCement permission to extract Palestinian natural resources for its own benefit or that of a foreign company.
Yet Israel not only permits HeidelbergCement to profit from illegal quarrying, but actively thwarts Palestinians from quarrying their own land, one of the myriad ways Israel prevents economic development.
Companies like HeidelbergCement that extract natural resources through Israeli licensing may be engaging in the war crime of pillage, according to Al-Haq, a Palestinian human rights group.
Nahal Raba quarry
HeidelbergCement took control of Nahal Raba quarry in 2007 when it acquired the UK firm Hanson, along with its Israeli subsidiary Hanson Israel.
The quarry is situated on land stolen from the village of al-Zawiya in the occupied West Bank.
For many years Israel declared the village and its surrounding area a firing zone, ostensibly meaning it would be closed to Palestinians as well as to Israeli citizens.
But in 2012, according to Israeli settlement monitoring organization Kerem Navot, the army transferred some 500 acres, including the Nahal Raba quarry, to the authority of the settlement of Elkana and the Samaria Regional Council, a settlement body.
Today, the quarry spans 145 acres, or about 10 acres more than it was allocated, Kerem Navot states.
But HeidelbergCement wasn’t satisfied. For more than 12 years the company tried to obtain permission to expand the quarry.
Israel finally granted planning permission to expand Nahal Raba by an additional 25 acres in February, according to a letter from the Civil Administration, the bureaucratic arm of Israel’s military occupation, provided to The Electronic Intifada by Kerem Navot.
The permit includes land stolen from the Palestinian village of Rafat.
The letter is below.
Complicit in international crimes
HeidelbergCement, as the owner of Hanson Israel, is knowingly and willingly complicit in Israel’s international crimes.
Ten years ago, Israeli human rights organization Yesh Din filed a petition with the Israeli high court demanding a halt to illegal mining activity in the occupied West Bank, including HeidelbergCement’s Nahal Raba quarry.
Attorneys representing Yesh Din considered it a “clearly illegal activity, which constitutes blunt and ugly colonial exploitation of land we [Israel] had forcefully seized.”
HeidelbergCement has also ignored the UN General Assembly’s concerns about Israel’s exploitation of Palestinian natural resources.
The UN body has demanded that Israel, “the occupying Power, cease the exploitation, damage, cause of loss or depletion of, or endangerment of the natural resources in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and in the occupied Syrian Golan.”
Moreover, it recognized the right of the Palestinian people to claim restitution for such illegal plunder and destruction of their resources.
Ten years in prison
HeidelbergCement is based in Germany, which has legislation making the international crime of pillage punishable under domestic law.
Germany’s 2002 Code of Crimes against International Law prescribes a prison sentence of up to 10 years for anyone who engages in pillage “in connection with an international armed conflict or with an armed conflict not of an international character,” or who “otherwise extensively destroys, appropriates or seizes property” contrary to international law.
Therefore, if Germany were applying its own laws, HeidelbergCement company officials could be looking at jail time.
Yet in the total absence of the rule of law when it comes to Israel and those who aid, abet and profit from its crimes, the BDS – boycott, divestment and sanctions – movement is an essential tool to hold governments, companies and institutions accountable.
The German government has failed to halt HeidelbergCement’s expanding plunder and war profiteering from Palestinian natural resources.
Instead, German elites have escalated their own unconditional support for Israel.
Yet the German parliament’s recent resolution smearing the BDS movement as anti-Semitic will not stop activists’ efforts to hold HeidelbergCement and the German government accountable for their role in Israel’s crimes.