PROTESTERS made their voices heard last week as they campaigned against the possibility of Waltham Forest Council awarding a contract to a firm accused of being complicit in the running of Israel’s illegal settlements.
French multinational Veolia is in contention for a number of waste contracts in the borough, but has come under fire for its involvement in projects such as Jerusalem Light Rail.
The railway, which links Israel to settlements in the occupied West Bank, has been described as a clear violation of international law by the United Nations Human Rights Council.
Veolia has since pulled out of the project and strongly denies supporting illegal activity but still owns approximately 80 per cent of Connex Jerusalem, the company that operates the trains.
The UN wrote to the council stating that any transfer of public funds to Veolia “may contravene the UK’s international legal obligation not to facilitate Israeli violations of international law”.
The No 2 Veolia Action Group (No2 VAG), a collection of campaigners from the seven London boroughs covered by the waste contract, spoke out against the company at a full council meeting at the town hall last Thursday, and protested outside.
Member Irfan Akhtar, also representing the Waltham Forest Council of Mosques, which claims to have 4,000 signatures on a petition against the firm’s bid, denied claims that the firm could not be barred because it was its subsidiary that had the Israel links.
He said: “Veolia treats its subsidiaries in the UK and in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories as a single entity.”
No decision on which firm wins the estimated £3 billion – £4 billion contract will be made until mid-2013.
A Veolia spokesman said: “Veolia Environnement has a presence in Israel through its operating local subsidiaries owned by Veolia Israel.
“In relation to the Occupied Territories, there are no current plans to undertake any further activities or to service the Israeli settlements situated therein”.
A spokesman for the NLWA said that following legal advice it could not exclude Veolia on the grounds laid out by the UN.