Veolia still intertwined with Israel's occupation
Adri Nieuwhof, The Electronic Intifada, 16 September 2009
After years of campaigning by Palestine solidarity activists to end the French transportation giant Veolia's complicity with Israeli violations of Palestinian rights, it was reported in early June that the company planned to end its involvement in an Israeli light rail project being built on occupied Palestinian land. The light rail will connect Jerusalem with several illegal West Bank settlements; Israeli settlements and the annexation of East Jerusalem are illegal under international law.
Veolia steadfastly refuses to provide information on the company's intention to pull out of the 30-year contract to operate the train and to sell its five percent stake in the City Pass Consortium. The City Pass Consortium holds the contract with the State of Israel for the construction of the light rail project. It consists of four Israeli companies and the French companies Connex (Veolia Transport subsidiary) and Alstom. The European business world has been abuzz with news of a merger between Veolia Transport and Transdev, a French bus transport company. In addition, recent news reports have mentioned the Israeli company Dan Bus Cooperative as a serious candidate to take over Veolia's role as operator of the light rail.
Contrary to Veolia's reported intention to abandon the light rail project, the company seems to be conducting business as usual with Israel. Veolia justified its work on the light rail project at length at the seventh Global Compact Annual Local Networks Forum held from 8-11 June 2009. Veolia, as participant in the UN Global Compact, is bound to the principles that businesses should support and respect the protection of international human rights within their spheres of influence, and make sure they are not complicit in human rights abuses. However, Veolia's participation in the construction and maintenance of the Jerusalem light rail are a violation of both provisions. Also, Veolia continues to advertise for jobs for the light rail's operational center in the Israeli press. Neither its attempts to justify the project at the Global Compact Forum, nor the recruitment of staff indicate the company plans to withdraw from the light rail project.