Veolia Pulls Out of Israel

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Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah says Veoila has lost billions due to the BDS movement

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JESSICA DESVARIEUX, PRODUCER, TRNN: Welcome to the Real News Network. I’m Jessica Desvarieux in Baltimore.

Multinational infrastructure company Veolia has sold its last investment in Israel and its settlements. Their activities included running bus service to Israeli settlements, the operation of a landfill in the occupied Jordan Valley, treatment for settlement sewage, and the construction and operation of the Jerusalem Light Rail. Some are pointing to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, otherwise known as BDS, as influencing the company’s decision.

Here to discuss this latest news is Electronic Intifada’s executive director Ali Abunimah. Ali is also the author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, and he joins us now from Chicago. Thank you so much for being with us, Ali.

ALI ABUNIMAH, EXEC. DIRECTOR, ELECTRONIC INTIFADA: Thank you, Jessica.

DESVARIEUX: So Ali, just give it to us straight. What’s so significant about Veolia’s move?

ABUNIMAH: What’s significant is that a major multinational company has been forced after years of pressure by activists all over the world to exit Israel completely, and in the process it has suffered billions of dollars in lost contracts because of opposition to its profiting from the Israeli occupation. So this serves as a clear warning to other companies, in fact there’s evidence other companies are already heeding that warning, not to get involved in the Israeli occupation. Not to participate in the occupation and dispossession of the Palestinian people, that it will cost you far more than you’ll gain from it.

DESVARIEUX: Ali, the critics will say, how can you prove that this action is directly a consequence of BDS action? Did Veolia come out and say that this BDS pressure was a part of their decision?

ABUNIMAH: Yes, in fact. Veolia officials have been quoted previously in the media acknowledging that they lost many contracts worth very large amounts of money directly as a result of activist pressure in countries across Europe. Veolia contracts with cities across Europe for running bus services and other city services, and so on. And they have lost many contracts. They lost a $700 million contract with Kuwait recently, again, precisely because of their involvement in the occupation. And in St. Louis, Missouri, where Veolia was going to come in and be involved in water management and water privatization, the company pulled out and said it’s just not worth it because of all the pressure they were facing from Palestine solidarity activists and also from environmental and labor activists as well.

DESVARIEUX: All right, Ali. In other news we have the United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers union voting in favor of supporting BDS. It’s one of the biggest unions to do so, with 37,000 members. Just quickly, give us an update on the momentum of BDS, and who else is supporting it?

ABUNIMAH: Well, it’s great that the United Electrical Workers, UE, voted overwhelmingly to support BDS and to support the full spectrum of Palestinian rights, including the rights of Palestinian refugees that are often forgotten about. And I think it shows that BDS is gaining momentum. People recognize, as one of the union leaders said, that this is a necessary step if you actually want to see peace and justice. Because for decades we’ve tried the approach of not putting any pressure on Israel, of in fact always rewarding Israel for its intransigence. And in this tenth anniversary year of the BDS movement it’s clear that the kind of bullying tactics that Israel lobby groups are using to try and stop the momentum are not working.

Of course, there’s still a lot of resistance. There’s a lot of powerful institutions that oppose Palestinian rights and oppose the boycott movement. But we are seeing that steadily chipped away and I think that that’s a very good thing.

DESVARIEUX: All right. Ali Abunimah, joining us from Chicago. Thank you so much for being with us.

ABUNIMAH: My pleasure.

DESVARIEUX: And thank you for joining us on the Real News Network.

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