Open Letter August 2010


An Open Letter to Edinburgh City Council

17 August 2010

Dear Councillors,

Alternative Business Model Project – Veolia

Under the City Council’s Alternative Business Models Project, Scottish Friends of Palestine (SFoP) has been informed that the French company, Veolia is on the shortlist of private companies being considered for award of contracts. We would ask you to be aware that Veolia and/or its subsidiaries is currently:

*the major contractor in the development of a tramway line in occupied East Jerusalem, which will link the illegal settlements in the military occupied West Bank

*servicing settler only bus routes in the occupied West Bank (which includes East Jerusalem)

*operating a 33 hectare landfill site, the Tovlan landfill, in the occupied West Bank, on land illegally confiiscated

No Mandate

At the outset it is emphasised that Veolia, by its actions, is complicit in the crimes perpetrated against the Palestinian people by the military occupation authorities. It is complicit in breaching the Geneva Conventions, many UN Security Council Resolutions in relation to Palestinian rights, all of which are embedded in international law.

The Israeli occupation authorities and Veolia have no mandate, other than that imposed by the barrel of a gun, for making or contributing to infrastucture changes within the occupied territories. They have no mandate, under international law, to facilitate the transfer of the population of the occupier into territories of the occupied. Under international law these are criminal acts which do not hasten any just or lasting peace.

And Edinburgh City Council has no mandate from its citizens to associate the City, in any way, with criminal acts. It has no mandate to approve deals with a private business whose actions undermine the prospect for peace in the Middle East.

Ethical Considerations

SFoP notes, with concern, the total absence of any reference to ethical concerns in the specification for the Alternative Business Model Project. We have already expressed our view on the criminal activity perpetrated against the Palestinian people under occupation. It is helpful to have a closer look at the ramifications of Veolia’s activities in the West Bank.

*Veolia’s tram link between occupied East Jerusalem and the outlying colonial settlements is an apartheid transport system built on occupied and illegally confiscated land. It encourages the shift of the settler population into occupied areas. It will thus encourage further settlement and further dispossession of the Palestinian people from their land. It is a further catastrophe for the Palestinian people as they struggle to create their own state. It militates against peace.

*The same argument can be made against Veolia’s contract to service the apartheid bus routes.

*Its landfill site at Tovlan raises serious concerns. The regulations governing disposal of waste in the occupied territories, should they exist, are military regulations. Already, with all illegal settlements positioned on elevated ground above local Palestinian land and villages, the ingress of raw, untreated sewage and waste onto Palestinian land is a serious problem. Military regulations do nothing to prevent this, and Veolia is happy to operate within these parameters, disposing of the waste of the occupier on illegally confiscated land.

Ethical considerations alone dictate that Edinburgh City Council should have no dealings with Veolia or its subsidiaries.

Edinburgh Inspiring Capital

If the above is to be considered a slogan with meaning, not just empty words, then the Council is obliged to remove Veolia from the shortlist. If the Council wishes Edinburgh to be at the forefront, internationally, then it must show itself to have inspired leadership, in the widest sense of the words.

Already many cities have removed Veolia from consideration for contracts. Over the past 4 years

*Swansea City Council has excluded Veolia from all futurecontracts.

*Dublin City Council unanimously passed a resolution calling on the City Manager not to sign or renew any contracts with Veolia.

*Melbourne in Australia revoked the contract with Connex (Veolia subsidiary) to run Melbourne’s trams

*Galway City Council voted not to renew or enter into any new contracts with Veolia

*Veolia lost its contract with Bordeaux.

*A French court in Nanterre rejected the two companies’ (Veolia and Alstom -another French company involved in the illegal “Jerusalem Light Rail” project) claim that it had no jurisdiction in the case against them (presented by French NGO AFPS), reaffirmed that Israel is the occupying power in East Jerusalem, not the sovereign, and confirmed the illegality of Israeli colonies built on occupied Palestinian land, including in East Jerusalem.

*Sligo County Council, passed a motion not to renew any further contracts with Veolia • Veolia lost a contract to run the subway in Stockholm,

*ASN, a Dutch bank, broke off financial relations with Veolia on account of the light rail contract, stating that the JLR project “is not in line with the United Nation’s demand to stop all support for Israel’s settlement activities”.

*Sandwell Borough Council’s short list for a rubbish collection contract excludes Veolia.

Edinburgh can do no less.

Finally, the City Council should consider carefully the words of Vivian Tabor, a native of Nazareth now in exile in Montreal

This violence is so potent that it is embedded within everyday life whereby seemingly innocent daily acts that are part of a normalised routine are criminal, implicated in the broader process of dispossession. For instance, a man jogging in a destroyed village that a refugee has no access to, or a mother playing with her child in a park built over a destroyed home are actions that remind and reinforce the dispossession of the Palestinian’s self, family and community; the destruction of our life, memories and all that was normal, for the resettling of others. Your rights are compromised at the expense of others who are deemed more important than you, and are thus granted rights and privileges that you are not. As such the oppression of the Palestinians becomes normal so that the state can continue to provide its citizens the privilege of jogging without any moral disruption.

Veolia continues to play its part in the violence against the Palestinian people, it helps normalise a situation which is criminal. Edinburgh City Council should have dealings with such a company.

Yours sincerely

Hugh Humphries


Scottish Friends of Palestine



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