Tuesday 15 October 2013

It's simple: my taxes should not go to a war profiteer like Veolia

Presentation by Dan Judelson of Jews for Justice for Palestinians and a Labour Party member to Brent Executive 14 October 2013. The Executive voted to give the 9 year multi-million Public Realm contract to Veolia.

Collecting waste is one of the most basic, fundamental responsibilities of a council. Ask someone what they want in terms of local services and chances are high that they will begin any such list with “empty my bins.”

Over the last three and a half decades, there has been an enormous change in the delivery of these services and a particular upshot of that is that a waste collection contract may now be part of a lucrative business.
So it is entirely understandable that Brent residents should ask questions about where council money is being spent. One of the bidders – the remaining bidder – for this public realm contract is part of a company that derives income directly form illegal activity.

I do not want to rehash in detail all of the arguments about how this happens; I know councillors and executive members will already be aware of much of this thanks to the debate over the past few months. Yet it is worth reminding ourselves of the basics of what happens at the Tovlan landfill site, operated by Veolia, in the Jordan Valley.

It handles waste from illegal Israeli settlements on land that would form part of the putative Palestinian state. Not a pennyworth of licence fee is paid by Veolia to the Palestinian authority for this privilege. In the meantime, Israeli institutions from the government to the Army to local settlers are actively trying to take over and control the Jordan Valley.

The government of Israel financially promotes illegal settlement in the Jordan Valley. According to the Israeli NGO B’tselem ,”the average grant per capita to Israeli settlers in the West bank [has been] approximately 57% higher than the average expenditure per capita for Israeli citizens inside Israel.”

Furthermore, the head of the Jordan Valleys settlers group has stated explicitly that “Approving the programme [of expansion] will change the face of the Jordan Valley beyond recognition – beyond recognition – and attract returning sons and families from outside to come to the region. Although a political cloud – an interesting euphemism – hangs over the region, this is the way to attract residents. (Italics mark my emphasis.)

So it is crucial to recognise that we are not talking about some abstract or vague connection with illegal activity. Operation of the Tovlan site contributes directly to sustaining illegal settlements and their expansion in the Jordan Valley, something that has been acknowledged as illegal by governments around the world – including that of Israel – since at least 1968.

These are issues that have been raised during the campaign but I raise them now because they leave a number of questions unanswered.
  1. We have heard that Brent Council Procurement and Legal Services have been determined to exclude such political factors from the bidding process on the basis of a legal opinion but we have heard also that this advice has been embargoed. Brent Council has to explain, why the exclusion, why the embargo?
  1. We have heard, too, about the potential for legal action from Veolia should they be excluded from the bidding process. Yet they have been excluded or have not been awarded contracts in the West Midlands, in Ealing, Richmond and East Sussex. They have been denied business in Dublin. Utrecht and The Hague – not to mention, far closer to home, the North and the West London Waste Authorities. I would like to know if Brent Council consulted with any of these bodies to try ad establish the ground on which these contracts were not awarded or the bidder excluded from the tendering process.
  1. Current EU guidelines state that the EU will not enter into any contract or relationship with a company or organisation that operates in the illegally occupied West Bank. This is sure to affect EU law across the 27 states over the duration of the public realm contract being discussed here tonight. Has this factor been considered by the council executive?
  1. Given what we know about Veolia’s operations in the West Bank, what consideration has been given to attaching conditions or riders to this very long contract, offering Veolia an opportunity to divest itself of the illegal operations we have heard about tonight.
Councillors, there are members of the Green Party, the Labour Party, of Stop the War, of Brent PSC and I myself am a signatory of Jews for Justice for Palestinians. But we are here tonight to decide the best course of action for Brent residents no matter what their political allegiance of campaign affiliation.

Hello. My name is Dan Judelson. I have lived in Algernon Road, Kilburn for the past 15 years and as a Brent resident and council-tax payer, I object most strenuously to my taxes going to fill the coffers of a war profiteer like Veolia. It’s as simple as that.

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