Bin Veolia; Keep MMU Clean

Mahwish Jabeen & Iram Nisa Hussain

There is a growing movement calling for justice for the Palestinian people, which is particularly evident on campuses of international universities, just as the movement against the South African apartheid was in the 1970s and 80s. The call by over 170 Palestinian civil society groups for the world to boycott, divest and sanction from those funding Israel’s activities until the Israeli regime abides by international law was made in 2005 and has been heeded to around the world. The boycott is especially important when it comes to the grave human rights violations of companies explicitly collaborating in the illegal military occupation of Palestinian lands.

One of those companies is Veolia, and as students at Manchester Metropolitan University, we are devastated by the news that the university has renewed its contract with a company entrenched in human rights violations, expulsion of Palestinians from their homes, of which so many are children, and constructing the infrastructure that advances Israel’s land expropriation and racist apartheid policies. Our campaigndemands an end to allowing a company to serve the waste needs of the University, that also serves Israel’s treatment of Palestinians as waste, as disposable people, denied the same human rights as anyone around the world would expect.

Many South African anti-apartheid heroes, such as the Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu, endorse the apartheid analogy in the comparison of Palestine to South Africa. When endorsing the successful boycott and ending of ties between the University of Johannesburg and Ben Gurion University (BGU) this year, the first of its kind, Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, “While Palestinians are not able to access universities and schools, Israeli universities produce the research, technology, arguments and leaders for maintaining the occupation. BGU is no exception. By maintaining links to both the Israeli Defense Forces and the arms industry, BGU structurally supports and facilitates the Israeli occupation.”

Palestinians, including many university students, continue to be held under Israeli military occupation after over 40 years, ethnically cleansed from their land (over 4 million UN registered refugees around the world) and in Gaza, are suffering a 4-year long blockade of goods and movement by the Israeli regime’s ‘collective punishment’ in contravention of the 4th Geneva convention. Gaza is one of the most crowded regions on earth, over half the population are children, and only 2 and a half years ago over 1400 people were killed, over 350 children during Israel’s bombing and land assault that devastated a population already suffering a hermetic siege.

Veolia is the French multinational company who is facilitating the building and operating of a tramway linking illegal settlements in East Jerusalem with Israel. Veolia is also building a tramline and running bus services that link Jerusalem and the illegal settlements in the West Bank along road 443. This road is known as ‘the apartheid road’ as Palestinians are not allowed to drive on almost all of it. The illegal settlements breach article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention prohibiting an occupier moving its own civilians into the territory it occupies.

It is therefore shameful that our University could continue to contract a company that is doing something many of us including the International Court of Justice, the UN, the International committee for the Red Cross and major human rights organisations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch believe to be an illegal occupation. As a result, the MMU Action Palestine Society has launched a campaign asking the University to cancel this contract with Veolia. Since 2005,Veolia has lost €10bn partly because of the international boycott campaign. This includes a broken contract with Cambridge University and other prestigious companies.

Recently Veolia has been dumping waste in the Tovlan landfill in the occupied Jordan valley.  Under international law, Israel is prohibited from using occupied land for the sole benefit of its own civilian population, yet waste that comes from Israel is dumped on the stolen land of the Palestinians, despite the facade of ethical recycling that is a huge part of their brand image in the West.

Adie Mormech, a Manchester Metropolitan graduate recently spent a year living in Gaza, and said this about the university’s on going collaboration with Veolia:

“We cannot endorse apartheid; plain and simple. I have met the families who have lost their homes in places where Veolia is serving the Illegal occupation. They have nowhere to go, like so many victims of the Israeli regime’s horrific acts to drive the Palestinians out of Palestine. It does not take much to say no to apartheid, to say no to occupation, to race based discrimination, to an air, land and naval blockade of Gaza, of over 800,000 children. It is time for those making these decisions and to refuse to incorporate such a human rights violator into the running of this University.”

We expect the University to abide by International law, just like many others, including musicians such as Massive Attack, Elvis Costello, Snoop Dogg, Gil Scott Heron, the Pixies, Faithless, Annie Lennox, Leftfield, Gorillaz Sound System and VanesaParadis, all of whom have refused to perform in Israel, who have chosen to oppose racism and apartheid, and stand on the right side of history. Our campaign will not stop until our university takes a similar stand and chooses one of the many alternatives to Veolia to deal with our waste.”

We leave you with a quote from Archbishop Desmond Tutu about his own experience among the Palestinian people:

“I never tire of speaking about the very deep distress in my visits to the Holy Land; they remind me so much of what happened to us black people in South Africa. I have seen the humiliation of the Palestinians at checkpoints and roadblocks, suffering like we did when young white police officers prevented us from moving about. My heart aches. I say, “Why are our memories so short?”

To find out more about the campaign, please visit MMU Action Palestine’s Facebook page.

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