Veolia keeps silent about two bus services to illegal settlements

The Derail Veolia Campaign is taking off in the United States. In response, Veolia has spread the information that it “does not operate other bus services in the West Bank” besides the bus lines 109 and 110.  Last week, Who Profits, a research project of the Israeli Coalition of Women for Peace, found that Veolia operates two other bus services to settlements in the occupied West Bank.

To assist activists in the United States, Global Exchange has built an informative website which provides basic information. In California, the Davis Committee for Palestinian Rights (DCPR) has called on Yolo County Transportation District to do no business with Veolia. In addition, the activists have challenged Veolia Water ‘s participation in bidding for a contract of the Woodland Davis Clean Water Agency Project. DCPR criticizes Veolia for its involvement in the Jerusalem Light Rail project, for operating bus services 109 and 110 to illegal settlements in the West Bank and for its involvement in Tovlan landfill in the occupied Jordan Valley.

Veolia misinforms Davis City

The Davis Human Relations Commission shared DPCR’s criticism with Veolia Water North America. Veolia responded to the Commission in a letter of 16 June. One of the issues raised by the Commission was:

Veolia supports the system of apartheid in the occupied West Bank of Palestine by operating buses solely for Jewish passengers traveling on Jewish only roads.

Veolia responded:

[T]he statement is incorrect and absolutely without merit. Veolia operates the 109 and 110 bus lines without any discrimination between the Israeli and Palestinian populations.

However, Veolia’s claim that Route 443, which is used by the two bus lines, “serves both the Israeli and Palestinian populations” is false. The Israeli human rights organization B’tselem writes about Road 443 on its website:

[T]he army continues to improperly discriminate against Palestinians, whose use of the road is greatly limited, while Israelis are permitted to travel along it freely.

I asked Kairos Palestine coordinator Rifat Kassis to comment on Veolia’s claim of non-discrimination between Palestinians and Israelis. He wrote:

Palestinians live under apartheid in the most technical definition of the word. It is impossible to ‘avoid’ discrimination when the entire occupation is predicated on it. Using the language of ’discrimination’ whitewashes the reality of occupation itself, which is a matter of colonialism, not simply prejudice. In any case, the state of Israel systematically discriminates against Palestinians; a company cannot distinguish itself from the rules and workings of the state.

Veolia runs two other bus services to settlements

Veolia tries to throw dust in the eyes of Davis City by stating that the company “does not operate other bus services in the West Bank”. Who Profits looked into Veolia’s assertion that the company is not involved in other bus services in the West Bank besides bus lines 109 and 110.

Last week, Who Profits found that Veolia operates two other bus services to settlements in the West Bank. Bus service 7 runs from Modi’in to the settlements of Hashmonaim and Kfar Ha’oranim. Veolia also operates bus 19 which runs between Modi’in and the settlement of Mevo Horon. The routes of bus service 7 and bus service 19 are published on the Veolia website.

The settlements Hashmonaim, Kfar Ha’oranim and Mevo Horon are situated in seam zones, areas which are sealed off from the occupied West Bank by the wall. Hashmonaim and Kfar Ha’oranim are built on the lands of Bil’in and Ni’lin. Beit Horon is in the Latrun enclave which was occupied in the June war of 1967. The Palestinian villages of Imwas, Yalu, and Beit Nuba were destroyed and their residents were evicted. To prevent the return of the displaced Palestinian villagers, Israel declared the Latrun enclave a closed military zone.

It is forbidden for Palestinians from the West Bank to enter the seam zones and therefore impossible to make use of the bus services that run in this area. Veolia’s bus services 7 and 19, just like bus lines 109 and 110, serve only the Jewish settlements.

Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the annexation of East Jerusalem are illegal under international law. By operating four bus services to Israeli settlements, Veolia is directly implicated in maintaining illegal settlements in the occupied Palestinian West Bank.

I am sure that the BDS movement will keep Veolia under pressure as long as the company continues its involvement in Israel’s violations of international law.

(electronicintifada.net / 24.08.2011)

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