German firm escalates its war crimes against Palestinians

HeidelbergCement’s Nahal Raba quarry in the occupied West Bank plunders Palestinian resources in violation of international law. 

Who Profits

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.

Most of the quarried products are used for the Israeli construction industry, including settlements in the occupied West Bank whose construction is also a war crime.

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.




"... total absence of the rule of law when it comes to Israel ..." - that says it all: the German state and, naturally, the EU, are lawless.


Have efforts been made to prosecute this or any German company in German courts? If state prosecutors refuse to apply the law, is it possible to initiate a private prosecution for the crime of plunder? And if the German legal system declines to enforce compliance with international law and its own professed adherence, doesn't that failure mandate an application for justice at the international level- ICC, WTO, etc? At the risk of seeming hopelessly naive, I can't help thinking that some resort to legal fora remains potentially viable. And by all means, pressure from the BDS campaign must be intensified, too.


This is bullshit. Germany ought to know better. I am very disappointed.


that legal proceedings in Germany will be able to move forward armed with the letter published here that proves not only exploitation but expansion in blatant defiance of international law. Ms Nieuwhof's investigations of HeidelbergCement's operations in the occupied Palestinian territories of the West Bank uncover a long effort to hide behind bureaucracy abetting the company's activities. Legal sanctions are only to be welcomed.


No reason to mince words: Germans' political representation, whether Left, Centrum or the Right, shamelessly plays the role of US and Israel Arschkriecher ('bootlicker' is so much less descriptive). I blame the Germans collectively for their corruptiveness; a decent populace would not allow their representatives to so blatantly violate domestic and international law for mere opportunistic reasons. Any decent country willing to offer me a political home? I am ready to shred my certificate of citizenship. (How about you, Cuba?)

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