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Avoiding Another Long War | Consortiumnews.

Avoiding Another Long War

January 4, 2012

Exaggerated coverage of a dubious report by the International Atomic Energy Agency about Iran’s alleged nuclear weapons program has spurred a rush toward a new war in the Middle East, but ex-U.S. intelligence officials urge President Obama to resist the pressures and examine the facts.

 

MEMORANDUM FOR:  The President

FROM:  Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

SUBJECT:  Avoiding Another Long War

As professionals with collectively hundreds of years of experience in intelligence, foreign policy, and counterterrorism, we are concerned about the gross misrepresentation of facts being bruited about to persuade you to start another war.

We have watched the militarists represent one Muslim country after another as major threats to U.S. security. In the past, they supported attacks on Sudan, Somalia, Yemen, Iraq, Pakistan, Libya and Afghanistan, as well as Israel’s attacks on Syria and Lebanon — nine Muslim countries – and Gaza.

This time, they are using a new IAEA report to assert categorically that Iran is building a nuclear weapon that allegedly poses a major threat to the U.S. Your intelligence and military advisors can certainly clarify what the report really says.

As you know, the IAEA makes regular inspection visits to Iran’s nuclear facilities and has TV cameras monitoring those facilities around the clock. While there is reason to question some of Iran’s actions, the situation is not as clear-cut as some allege.

Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize recipient and former IAEA director-general, said recently, “I don’t believe Iran is a clear and present danger. All I see is the hype about the threat posed by Iran.” He is not alone: All 16 U.S. intelligence agencies concluded “with high confidence” in a 2007 National Intelligence Estimate that Iran had halted its nuclear-weapons program as of 2003.

We are seeing a replay of the “Iraq WMD threat.” As Philip Zelikow, Executive Secretary of the 9/11 Commission said, “The ‘real threat’ from Iraq was not a threat to the United States. The unstated threat was the threat against Israel.”

Your military and intelligence experts can also provide information on unpublicized efforts to derail Iran’s nuclear program and on the futility of attempting to eliminate that program – which is dispersed and mostly underground – through aerial bombing.

Sen. Joe Lieberman

Defense Secretary [Leon] Panetta and other experts have stated that an air attack would only delay any weapons program for a year or two at most.

Former Mossad head Meir Dagan said that an air force strike against Iran’s nuclear installations would be “a stupid thing,” a view endorsed in principle by two other past Mossad chiefs, Danny Yatom and Ephraim Halevy. Dagan added that “Any strike against [the civilian program] is an illegal act according to international law.”

Dagan pointed out another reality: bombing Iran would lead it to retaliate against Israel through Hezbollah, which has tens of thousands of Grad-type rockets and hundreds of Scuds and other long-range missiles, and through Hamas.

We are already spending as much as the rest of the world combined on National Security and $100 billion per year on a Long War in Afghanistan. The Israel lobby has been beating the drums for us to attack Iran for years, led by people with confused loyalties like Joe Lieberman, who once made the claim that it is unpatriotic for Americans not to support Israel.

Another Long War is not in America’s or Israel’s interests, whatever Israel’s apologists claim. Those are the same people who claim that [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad said he would “wipe Israel off the map.” Persian specialists have pointed out that the original statement in Persian actually said that Israel would collapse: “This occupation regime over Jerusalem must vanish from the arena of time.”

What we have is a situation where Israel’s actions, for example in sending 300,000 settlers into the West Bank and 200,000 settlers into East Jerusalem, are compromising U.S. security by putting us at risk for terrorist retaliation.

We have provided Israel with $100 billion in direct aid since 1975. Since this is fungible, how has funding settlements contributed to our security? You agreed to provide $3 billion in F-35s to Israel in exchange for a 90-day freeze on settlements. What you got was 90 days of stonewalling on the peace process and then more settlers. What more do we owe Israel?

Certainly not a rush to war. We have time to make diplomacy and sanctions work, to persuade Russia and China to make joint cause with us.

James Madison once wrote that “Of all the enemies of true liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded.… War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes. …No nation can preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.”

We are currently winding down what you labeled a “dumb war;” we should not undertake another dumb war against a country almost three times larger than Iraq, that would set off a major regional war and create generations of jihadis. Such a war, contrary to what some argue, would not make Israel or the U.S. safer.

Steering Group, Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS)

Phil Giraldi, Directorate of Operations, CIA
Ray McGovern, US Army Intelligence Officer, Directorate of Intelligence, CIA
Coleen Rowley, Special Agent and Minneapolis Division Counsel, FBI
Ann Wright, Col., US Army Reserve (ret.), Foreign Service Officer, Department of State
Tom Maertens, Foreign Service Officer and NSC Director for Non-Proliferation under two presidents

Elizabeth Murray, former Deputy National Intelligence Officer for the Near East in the National Intelligence Council
David MacMichael, former history professor and CIA and National Intelligence Council analyst

Abu Mazen’s Gambit » Counterpunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

Abu Mazen’s Gambit

by URI AVNERY

A WONDERFUL SPEECH. A beautiful speech.

The language expressive and elegant. The arguments clear and convincing. The delivery flawless.

A work of art. The art of hypocrisy. Almost every statement in the passage concerning the Israeli-Palestinian issue was a lie. A blatant lie: the speaker knew it was a lie, and so did the audience.

It was Obama at his best, Obama at his worst.

Being a moral person, he must have felt the urge to vomit. Being a pragmatic person, he knew that he had to do it, if he wanted to be re-elected.

In essence, he sold the fundamental national interests of the United States of America for the chance of a second term.

Not very nice, but that’s politics, OK?

IT MAY be superfluous – almost insulting to the reader – to point out the mendacious details of this rhetorical edifice.

Obama treated the two sides as if they were equal in strength – Israelis and Palestinians, Palestinians and Israelis.

But of the two, it is the Israelis – only they – who suffer and have suffered. Persecution. Exile. Holocaust. An Israeli child threatened by rockets. Surrounded by the hatred of Arab children. So sad.

No Occupation. No settlements. No June 1967 borders. No Naqba. No Palestinian children killed or frightened. It’s the straight right-wing Israeli propaganda line, pure and simple – the terminology, the historical narrative, the argumentation. The music.

The Palestinians, of course, should have a state of their own. Sure, sure. But they must not be pushy. They must not embarrass the US. They must not come to the UN. They must sit with the Israelis, like reasonable people, and work it out with them. The reasonable sheep must sit down with the reasonable wolf and decide what to have for dinner. Foreigners should not interfere.

Obama gave full service. A lady who provides this kind of service generally gets paid in advance. Obama got paid immediately afterwards, within the hour. Netanyahu sat down with him in front of the cameras and gave him enough quotable professions of love and gratitude to last for several election campaigns.

THE TRAGIC hero of this affair is Mahmoud Abbas. A tragic hero, but a hero nonetheless.

Many people may be surprised by this sudden emergence of Abbas as a daring player for high stakes, ready to confront the mighty US.

If Ariel Sharon were to wake up for a moment from his years-long coma, he would faint with amazement. It was he who called Mahmoud Abbas “a plucked chicken”.

Yet for the last few days, Abbas was the center of global attention. World leaders conferred about how to handle him, senior diplomats were eager to convince him of this or that course of action, commentators were guessing what he would do next. His speech before the UN General Assembly was treated as an event of consequence.

Not bad for a chicken, even for one with a full set of feathers.

His emergence as a leader on the world stage is somewhat reminiscent of Anwar Sadat.

When Gamal Abd-al-Nasser unexpectedly died at the age of 52 in 1970 and his official deputy, Sadat, assumed his mantle, all political experts shrugged.

Sadat? Who the hell is that? He was considered a nonentity, an eternal No. 2, one of the least important members of the group of “free officers” that was ruling Egypt.

In Egypt, a land of jokes and jokers, witticisms about him abounded. One concerned the prominent brown mark on his forehead. The official version was that it was the result of much praying, hitting the ground with his forehead. But the real reason, it was told, was that at meetings, after everyone else had spoken, Sadat would get up and try to say something. Nasser would good-naturedly put his finger to his forehead, push him gently down and say: “Sit, Anwar!”

To the utter amazement of the experts – and especially the Israeli ones – this “nonentity” took a huge gamble by starting the 1973 October War, and proceeded to do something unprecedented in history: going to the capital of an enemy country still officially in a state of war and making peace.

Abbas’ status under Yasser Arafat was not unlike Sadat’s under Nasser. However, Arafat never appointed a deputy. Abbas was one of a group of four or five likely successors. The heir would surely have been Abu Jihad, had he not been killed by Israeli commandoes in front of his wife and children. Another likely candidate, Abu Iyad, was killed by Palestinian terrorists. Abu Mazen (Abbas) was in a way the choice by default.

Such politicians, emerging suddenly from under the shadow of a great leader, generally fall into one of two categories: the eternal frustrated No. 2 or the surprising new leader.

The Bible gives us examples of both kinds. The first was Rehoboam, the son and heir of the great King Solomon, who told his people: “my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions”. The other kind was represented by Joshua, the heir of Moses. He was no second Moses, but according to the story a great conqueror in his own right.

Modern history tells the sad story of Anthony Eden, the long-suffering No. 2 of Winston Churchill, who commanded little respect. (Mussolini called him, after their first meeting, “a well-tailored idiot.”). Upon assuming power, he tried desperately to equal Churchill and soon embroiled Britain in the 1956 Suez disaster. To the second category belonged Harry Truman, the nobody who succeeded the great Franklin Delano Roosevelt and surprised everybody as a resolute leader.

Abbas looked like belonging to the first kind. Now, suddenly, he is revealed as belonging to the second. The world is treating him with newfound respect. Nearing the end of his career, he made the big gamble.

BUT WAS it wise? Courageous, yes. Daring, yes. But wise?

My answer is: Yes, it was.

Abbas has placed the quest for Palestinian freedom squarely on the international table. For more than a week, Palestine has been the center of international attention. Scores of international statesmen and -women, including the leader of the world’s only superpower, have been busy with Palestine.

For a national movement, that is of the utmost importance. Cynics may ask: “So what did they gain from it?” But cynics are fools. A liberation movement gains from the very fact that the world pays attention, that the media grapple with the problem, that people of conscience all over the world are aroused. It strengthens morale at home and brings the struggle a step nearer its goal.

Oppression shuns the limelight. Occupation, settlements, ethnic cleansing thrive in the shadows. It is the oppressed who need the light of day. Abbas’ move provided it, at least for the time being.

BARACK OBAMA’s miserable performance was a nail in the coffin of America’s status as a superpower. In a way, it was a crime against the United States.

The Arab Spring may have been a last chance for the US to recover its standing in the Middle East. After some hesitation, Obama realized that. He called on Mubarak to go, helped the Libyans against their tyrant, made some noises about Bashar al-Assad. He knows that he has to regain the respect of the Arab masses if he wants to recover some stature in the region, and by extension throughout the world.

Now he has blown it, perhaps forever. No self-respecting Arab will forgive him for plunging his knife into the back of the helpless Palestinians. All the credit the US has tried to gain in the last months in the Arab and the wider Muslim world has been blown away with one puff.

All for reelection.

IT WAS also a crime against Israel.

Israel needs peace. Israel needs to live side by side with the Palestinian people, within the Arab world. Israel cannot rely forever on the unconditional support of the declining United States.

Obama knows this full well. He knows what is good for Israel, even if Netanyahu doesn’t. Yet he has handed the keys of the car to the drunken driver.

The State of Palestine will come into being. This week it was already clear that this is unavoidable. Obama will be forgotten, as will Netanyahu, Lieberman and the whole bunch.

Mahmoud Abbas – Abu Mazen, as the Palestinians call him – will be remembered. The “plucked chicken” is soaring into the sky.

Uri Avnery is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is a contributor to CounterPunch’s book The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

Why the Middle East Will Never Be the Same Again | Common Dreams

Why the Middle East Will Never Be the Same Again

The Palestinians won’t achieve statehood, but they will consign the ‘peace process’ to history.

The Palestinians won’t get a state this week. But they will prove – if they get enough votes in the General Assembly and if Mahmoud Abbas does not succumb to his characteristic grovelling in the face of US-Israeli power – that they are worthy of statehood. And they will establish for the Arabs what Israel likes to call – when it is enlarging its colonies on stolen land – “facts on the ground”: never again can the United States and Israel snap their fingers and expect the Arabs to click their heels. The US has lost its purchase on the Middle East. It’s over: the “peace process”, the “road map”, the “Oslo agreement”; the whole fandango is history.“In the new Middle East,” writes Fisk, “Amid the Arab Awakening and the revolt of free peoples for dignity and freedom, this UN vote – passed in the General Assembly, vetoed by America if it goes to the Security Council – constitutes a kind of hinge; not just a page turning, but the failure of empire. (EPA)

Personally, I think “Palestine” is a fantasy state, impossible to create now that the Israelis have stolen so much of the Arabs’ land for their colonial projects. Go take a look at the West Bank, if you don’t believe me. Israel’s massive Jewish colonies, its pernicious building restrictions on Palestinian homes of more than one storey and its closure even of sewage systems as punishment, the “cordons sanitaires” beside the Jordanian frontier, the Israeli-only settlers’ roads have turned the map of the West Bank into the smashed windscreen of a crashed car. Sometimes, I suspect that the only thing that prevents the existence of “Greater Israel” is the obstinacy of those pesky Palestinians.

But we are now talking of much greater matters. This vote at the UN – General Assembly or Security Council, in one sense it hardly matters – is going to divide the West – Americans from Europeans and scores of other nations – and it is going to divide the Arabs from the Americans. It is going to crack open the divisions in the European Union; between eastern and western Europeans, between Germany and France (the former supporting Israel for all the usual historical reasons, the latter sickened by the suffering of the Palestinians) and, of course, between Israel and the EU.

A great anger has been created in the world by decades of Israeli power and military brutality and colonisation; millions of Europeans, while conscious of their own historical responsibility for the Jewish Holocaust and well aware of the violence of Muslim nations, are no longer cowed in their criticism for fear of being abused as anti-Semites. There is racism in the West – and always will be, I fear – against Muslims and Africans, as well as Jews. But what are the Israeli settlements on the West Bank, in which no Arab Muslim Palestinian can live, but an expression of racism?

Israel shares in this tragedy, of course. Its insane government has led its people on this road to perdition, adequately summed up by its sullen fear of democracy in Tunisia and Egypt – how typical that its principle ally in this nonsense should be the awful Saudi Arabia – and its cruel refusal to apologise for the killing of nine Turks in the Gaza flotilla last year and its equal refusal to apologise to Egypt for the killing of five of its policemen during a Palestinian incursion into Israel.

So goodbye to its only regional allies, Turkey and Egypt, in the space of scarcely 12 months. Israel’s cabinet is composed both of intelligent, potentially balanced people such as Ehud Barak, and fools such as Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, the Ahmadinejad of Israeli politics. Sarcasm aside, Israelis deserve better than this.

The State of Israel may have been created unjustly – the Palestinian Diaspora is proof of this – but it was created legally. And its founders were perfectly capable of doing a deal with King Abdullah of Jordan after the 1948-49 war to divide Palestine between Jews and Arabs. But it had been the UN, which met to decide the fate of Palestine on 29 November 1947, which gave Israel its legitimacy, the Americans being the first to vote for its creation. Now – by a supreme irony of history – it is Israel which wishes to prevent the UN from giving Palestinian Arabs their legitimacy – and it is America which will be the first to veto such a legitimacy.

Does Israel have a right to exist? The question is a tired trap, regularly and stupidly trotted out by Israel’s so-called supporters; to me, too, on regular though increasingly fewer occasions. States – not humans – give other states the right to exist. For individuals to do so, they have to see a map. For where exactly, geographically, is Israel? It is the only nation on earth which does not know and will not declare where its eastern frontier is. Is it the old UN armistice line, the 1967 border so beloved of Abbas and so hated by Netanyahu, or the Palestinian West Bank minus settlements, or the whole of the West Bank?

Show me a map of the United Kingdom which includes England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and it has the right to exist. But show me a map of the UK which claims to include the 26 counties of independent Ireland in the UK and shows Dublin to be a British rather than an Irish city, and I will say no, this nation does not have the right to exist within these expanded frontiers. Which is why, in the case of Israel, almost every Western embassy, including the US and British embassies, are in Tel Aviv, not in Jerusalem.

In the new Middle East, amid the Arab Awakening and the revolt of free peoples for dignity and freedom, this UN vote – passed in the General Assembly, vetoed by America if it goes to the Security Council – constitutes a kind of hinge; not just a page turning, but the failure of empire. So locked into Israel has US foreign policy become, so fearful of Israel have almost all its Congressmen and Congresswomen become – to the extent of loving Israel more than America – that America will this week stand out not as the nation that produced Woodrow Wilson and his 14 principles of self-determination, not as the country which fought Nazism and Fascism and Japanese militarism, not as the beacon of freedom which, we are told, its Founding Fathers represented – but as a curmudgeonly, selfish, frightened state whose President, after promising a new affection for the Muslim world, is forced to support an occupying power against a people who only ask for statehood.

Should we say “poor old Obama”, as I have done in the past? I don’t think so. Big on rhetoric, vain, handing out false love in Istanbul and Cairo within months of his election, he will this week prove that his re-election is more important than the future of the Middle East, that his personal ambition to stay in power must take first place over the sufferings of an occupied people. In this context alone, it is bizarre that a man of such supposed high principle should show himself so cowardly. In the new Middle East, in which Arabs are claiming the very same rights and freedoms that Israel and America say they champion, this is a profound tragedy.

US failures to stand up to Israel and to insist on a fair peace in “Palestine”, abetted by the hero of the Iraq war, Blair, are responsible. Arabs too, for allowing their dictators to last so long and thus to clog the sand with false frontiers and old dogmas and oil (and let’s not believe that a “new” “Palestine” would be a paradise for its own people). Israel, too, when it should be welcoming the Palestinian demand for statehood at the UN with all its obligations of security and peace and recognition of other UN members. But no. The game is lost. America’s political power in the Middle East will this week be neutered on behalf of Israel. Quite a sacrifice in the name of liberty…

Robert Fisk

Robert Fisk is Middle East correspondent for The Independent newspaper.  He is the author of many books on the region, including The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East.

French giant Veolia cut down to size for abusing Palestinian rights

French giant Veolia cut down to size for abusing Palestinian rights

26 August 2011

France is refusing to address corporate complicity in the occupation of Palestine.

The French corporation Veolia once appeared unassailable; today it is ailing. It is faced not only with the global economic crisis but also the growing impact of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) campaign against its involvement with Israeli apartheid infrastructure and transport projects. A recent merger between Veolia’s transport division and a subsidiary of the main French state investment fund indicates French industry and government have united to find a simple solution to Veolia’s problems: let the taxpayers finance Veolia’s income losses — and its complicity with Israeli war crimes and human rights abuses against the Palestinian people.

On 4 August, Veolia management held a conference call with major financial analysts to defend the company’s latest figures. It wasn’t an easy task. Veolia’s management was forced to gloss over the terrible financial situation of the group that has forced it to draw up sharp cost reduction plans, initiate a complete restructuring of management, plan the pullout from more than forty countries and search for more investors to cover a high debt.

Veolia has lost more than 50 percent of its share value since March 2011, according to tear sheet data from The Financial Times (“Marketdata: Veolia Environnement Ve SA,” accessed 25 August 2011).

However, among the underlying financial data discussed — €67 million ($96 million) in net loss during the first half of this year; €15 billion ($21.6 billion) net debts; €250 million ($360 million) yearly cost reduction — one number did not come up: the massive financial damage the company has faced at the hands of the BDS movement. Since the beginning of the Palestinian-led campaign in 2005, Veolia has lost contracts worth more than €10 billion ($14 billion) following high profile campaigns.

Veolia’s chief financial officer Pierre-Antoine Riolacci had to admit that its municipal services are suffering a downturn in some countries “in particular with pressure on the downside, namely in the UK where things are rather difficult.”

Ignoring London loss

Surely the CFO had heard the news from across the English Channel the day before the conference call, where Veolia had failed to be selected for a £300 million ($493 million) contract by Ealing Council in London following a determined campaign by the local branch of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

The worldwide campaign against Veolia was initiated in response to the company’s five percent stake in the consortium that is constructing the light rail project that links West Jerusalem with illegal Israeli settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and the surrounding West Bank, thereby cementing Israeli colonization and creating the necessary infrastructure for its further expansion. Moreover, Veolia holds a thirty-year contract for the operation of its first line, due to open later this month. Veolia and its subsidiaries also operate bus services, waste management and a landfill all deep within the occupied West Bank, and all for the use of Israeli settlers. All of these projects contribute to war crimes, as defined by the Fourth Geneva Convention and the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.

Refusal to withdraw from Israel

Despite its apparent desperation to reduce costs, Veolia has yet to implement the most effective cost reduction strategy it could: including Israel in the list of countries it plans to withdraw from. Rather than divesting from Israeli colonization of Palestinian land, Veolia is turning to the French state for financial assistance, involving public money in operations abetting Israeli war crimes.

This spring Veolia Transport merged with Transdev into a newly created company Veolia Transdev (“Veolia Transdev: Creation of the world’s leading private-sector company in sustainable mobility,” press statement, 3 March 2011).

Transdev was a subsidiary of the French Caisse des Dépôts (CDC), a public investment authority that manages public funds and is overseen by the French parliament. The CDC is now a 50 percent partner in the newly created Veolia Transdev transport company. According to Veolia’s Pierre-Antoine Riolacci, the entrance of Transdev intp the group has allowed Veolia to “cut back our debt by €159 million [$229 million].” The degree to which Veolia Transdev has come under the protection of the French state is evident in the fact that during the conference call, Veolia Transdev issues were directly dealt with by the CDC’s chief executive Jerome Gallot.

On its website, CDC boasts that it exists to “serve the general interest and the economic development” of France. But pumping French tax money into Veolia to make up for its financial troubles, thus allowing it to push forward projects that serve illegal Israeli population transfers into occupied Palestinian territory, is unlikely to help attain either goal. Moreover, the Jerusalem light rail project contradicts French government policy that East Jerusalem should be the capital of a future Palestinian state. Promoting the project in 2005, then Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon stated, “This [light rail] should be done … to strengthen Jerusalem, construct it, expand it and sustain it for eternity as the capital of the Jewish people and the united capital of the state of Israel.”

Even before its partial ownership of Veolia Transdev, CDC was involved in the light rail project through its subsidiary Egis Rail, which won a contract in 2008 to assist with managing the project. The current role of Egis Rail is unclear.

Private companies have long been heavily involved in Israeli violations of Palestinian human rights, such as building and maintaining the illegal settlement infrastructure, and the wall built on Israeli-occupied Palestinian land in the West Bank. But by investing in Veolia, the French government is bucking a recent European trend of governments to start ensuring public enterprises and institutions are not complicit with Israeli violations of international law.

The German government recently responded to public pressure by taking steps to end the state-owned company Deutsche Bahn’s involvement in the construction of a train line from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv passing through the occupied West Bank. Explaining its intervention, the German transport ministry pointed to the “potentially illegal” nature of the project and the fact that it is inconsistent with government policy toward Israel and the Palestinians (“Letter from German government to Die Linke parliamentarian concerning A1 train project,” 10 May 2011). The German foreign ministry has admirably published an alert on its website warning German companies about the potential legal consequences of Israeli projects in the occupied West Bank (“West Bank, Economy”).

Precedents set by other European capitals

The Norwegian government took a precedent-setting step when it excluded Elbit Systems from its investment portfolio. Elbit is an Israeli arms company involved in the construction of Israel’s illegal wall in the West Bank. It subsequently also excluded Africa Israel and Danya Cebus, two companies which build illegal Israeli-only settlements in the West Bank (“Norwegian government pension fund excludes more Israeli companies,” 23 August 2010).

The British government also took a stand on the issue when, in 2009, the foreign ministry pulled out of a deal to rent office space for its embassy in a building owned by Lev Leviev, the Israeli diamond tycoon who owns Africa Israel and finances development of illegal settlements in the West Bank. The British government also withdrew export licenses to Israel from UK arms companies that provided the Israeli military with weapons or components that have been used during the winter 2008-09 attacks on the Gaza Strip (“Israel arms licenses revoked by Britain,” The Huffington Post, 13 July 2009).

In September 2009, the Spanish government excluded Ariel university from a state-sponsored architecture competition after having become aware that it was located in an illegal settlement.

The French government, however, has so far failed to take action to end such complicity. By doing so, France is not only undermining important precedents set by its allies. It also violates its obligations under international law and the voluntary commitments it has made regarding good governance and corporate social responsibility.

France must honor obligations

When the International Court of Justice ruled on the illegality of Israel’s apartheid wall and related infrastructure in the occupied West Bank, it also ruled that third party states are obliged not to aid or assist the maintenance of the unlawful situation created by Israel or infringements of the right to Palestinian self-determination. Two companies owned by the French state fund CDC — Veolia and Egis Rail — are involved with and profit from such unlawful acts. This calls France’s commitment to international law into question.

In June, the United Nations Human Rights Council approved its new Guiding Principles for the implementation of the Protect, Respect and Remedy Framework, designed to help states and businesses understand their duty to prevent corporate abuse of human rights and their obligations under international law (“Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights: Implementing the United Nations ‘Protect, Respect and Remedy’ Framework,” 21 March 2011).

According to these principles, “states should take additional steps to protect against human rights abuses by business enterprises that are owned or controlled by the state … [including by] denying access to public support and services for a business enterprise that is involved with gross human rights abuses and refuses to cooperate in addressing the situation.”

Involvement in the light rail project also violates the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development’s guidelines on multinational companies. Considering that Paris is the seat of the OECD, this is particularly ironic (“OECD Guidelines for Multinational Enterprises,” 2008 [PDF]).

The OECD guidelines call for companies to “respect the human rights of those affected by their activities consistent with the host government’s international obligations and commitments.” Israel’s settlements and associated infrastructure violate several key international law treaties, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, all of which have been ratified by Israel and France.

The French government has become a shareholder in Veolia in full knowledge of that company’s role in supporting Israeli occupation and colonization of Palestinian land. The principal victims of this French policy are the Palestinian people. However, this development should also be of concern to all those who believe in the importance of a functioning system of international law and the implementation of human rights standards. The French people, whose taxes have financed the Veolia Transdev merger, should be especially concerned.

It will be up to campaigners in France and all around the globe to stop governmental buy-ins to illegal operations of private or state enterprises. It will be their task to ensure that the Transdev deal will not be enough to shield Veolia from the impact of the BDS movement’s demand for accountability. The group is in financial trouble and its CFO has admitted that Veoila is losing municipal service contracts in cities and regions that have seen meticulous grassroots campaigning. In December, Veolia will present the full list of countries which it is leaving (“Veolia to leave 37 countries as loss spurs quicker revamp,” Bloomberg, 4 August 2011).

This might be another chance for the company to show that it has learned that failure to respect human rights and the Palestinians’ right to self-determination comes with a price.

Maren Mantovani is coordinator for international relations with Stop the Wall, the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign.

Michael Deas is Europe coordinator for the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC).