VEOLIA: Letter to Chairman of Veolia Environnement’s Ethics Committee re bus and other services in the West Bank 25Aug10 August 25, 2010

25 August 2010

Monsieur Portnoi
Veolia Environnement’s Ethics Committee

Dear Monsieur Portnoi,

Not having heard from you again I thought I should add more information about Veolia’s bus services and support to Israel’s illegal settlements.

Veolia Transport runs bus services Connex 110 and 109.  Both routes serve illegal settlements.  I have attached a map of the route for service 110 and a map of road 443.  This clearly shows that the service passes through the illegal settlements of Beit Horon, Giv’at Ze’ev and Ramot Alon.

The first two are in the West Bank, Ramot Alon is in East Jerusalem.  Service 109 also passes through these illegal settlements, but starts (or finishes) at Mevo Horon, a settlement in the West Bank, un-named on the left side of the map of road 443.  It runs between Mevo Horon and West Jerusalem.  I have received confirmation that the Connex buses serve the settlements from someone who used a Connex bus and got out at one of these settlements where the bus stopped.

The bus routes have always been open to Palestinians with a Jerusalem ID card.  Palestinians with this status can travel throughout Israel.  According to Veolia (unverified) plenty of them do use the Connex buses. Palestinian citizens of Israel can use the buses too. The Apartheid nature of Connex bus services 109 and 110 lies in Palestinians living in the West Bank not being able to use the buses, even though part of the route passes through the West Bank.  This is because the routes use road 443 on which Israel forbade West Bank (and of course Gaza) Palestinians to travel, even though the road was built partly on land appropriated from the Palestinian villages along the route. After a long Court case the Israeli High Court ruled last year that the closure was disproportionate and from June this year the road must be open to all Palestinians.  Since June 2010 West Bank Palestinians can use the road but with access and exit points so restricted that I am not sure if they can in practice make use of the Connex services.

You say below “Much more we have always said that if there would be any discrimination in the access of the light railway we would stop our partnership.”  I think you will agree that this must apply equally to the bus services.  Yet for years from the time Veolia started operating the routes until June this year Veolia tolerated discrimination in access to the bus services, and some discrimination may still exist.  As Chairman of Veolia Environnement’s Ethics Committee I think you must agree that Veolia running these bus services is unethical and according to Veolia’s own criteria cannot be allowed to continue.

In addition, of course the bus services are supporting the illegal settlements.  Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention states “The occupying power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies.”  In so far as Israelis use the buses to take up permanent residence in the settlements the bus services directly contravene this article.  The establishment of some, probably all, of the settlements served involved “extensive appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out wantonly and unlawfully” which is a grave breach of Article 147 of the 4th Geneva convention, and therefore a war crime.  (I can give links to maps of some of the settlements involved showing the extensive areas appropriated from the Palestinians).  By supporting these settlements through its Connex bus services Veolia is perpetuating their establishment, and in so doing is aiding and abetting war crimes.  This is a further and perhaps even stronger reason why Veolia should stop running these services.

The same objection applies to Veolia’s stake in the Citypass consortium and its contract to run the Jerusalem tramway.  By servicing illegal settlements, the tramway binds them more closely to Israel and perpetuates their establishment, once more aiding and abetting war crimes. It is also a contravention of the Hague Regulations, part of international law, that forbids the alteration of the infrastructure in occupied territory.  In order to emphasise the current and ongoing concern regarding these matters, I  would draw your attention to the decision of the UN Human Rights Council adopted on 14th April 2010. Para 5g expresses its grave concern at ” The Israeli decision to establish and operate a tramway between West Jerusalem and the Israeli settlement of Pisgat Zeev, which is in clear violation of international law and relevant United Nations resolutions;”  The full resolution may be found here.  Similarly, Veolia’s operation of the Tovlan landfill site in the occupied Jordan Valley constitutes complicity in war crimes, through support to illegal settlements in taking their refuse.  There has recently been confirmation that Tovlan accepts refuse from Israel itself, a nasty case of the occupier dumping its rubbish on the occupied.  This also is a contravention of international law, for an occupier can only do things in the territory it occupies that are either required for military purposes or benefit the local population.  Veolia also practices discrimination in respect of Tovlan: gas is produced from the rubbish, but this is supplied exclusively to illegal Israeli settlements and not to Palestinian villages in the vicinity.

I need to bring a related matter to your attention.  I have attached the email reply Veolia Kier from VE re bus services 26-4-10 from Veolia Environnement to the British Company Kier which had raised concerns about Veolia’s activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem (Kier has contracts with Veolia Environmental Services).  In relation to the bus services it includes this statement:

“About the Connex bus services:
Services 109 and 110 DO NOT connect any settlements with west Jerusalem. They run between the city of Modiin and West Jerusalem. Modiin is wholly within the 67 borders and is not a subject of any territorial controversy whatsoever. Furthermore, the services are open to all passengers of all races with no discrimination, and Arab passengers from East Jerusalem use these services frequently. In these service, Veolia Transport employs Arab drivers from East Jerusalem who enjoy identical wages and terms of employment as all other drivers in these services.”

You will see from the evidence given earlier in this email that this statement is untrue, both in respect to settlements and the service being open to all passengers.  I am sure you will agree that it is thoroughly unethical for Veolia Environnement to be trying to defend its reputation by giving false information in reply to allegations of grave misconduct.

Taking all this into account, I hope you will agree, and will so advise the company, that continuation of Veolia’s provision of services to the illegal Israeli settlements is unethical and must be brought to an end forthwith.  Any financial penalty incurred in terminating the contracts will be far outweighed by the restoration of Veolia’s reputation as an ethical company.

Yours sincerely
Angus Geddes

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