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Saturday, 20 August 2011

Agrexco and Veolia On The Ropes

Don’t trade with Apartheid as the Boycott Takes Its Toll

For some years we have picketted and boycotted Agrexco, the giant conglomerate which exports settlement produce from the West Bank to Europe. Agrexco is now facing bankruptcy as is Veolia, another prominent investor in Israel. The lesson? Don’t trade with Apartheid.
Tony Greenstein

BDS campaigners declare victory as international bidders for Agrexco drop out
BDS National Committee (BNC)

* Previous Irish bidder Total Produce no longer looking to buy Agrexco
* Clear pattern of boycotted companies entering financial crisis
* Boycott campaign increases international pressure on Israel

It emerged Thursday that Irish company Total Produce was no longer in the running to buy troubled Israeli exporter Agrexco. The Irish fruit company dropped out of the running after pressure from Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaigners, who had written because of Agrexco’s involvement in illegal West Bank settlements.

BDS campaigners in Ireland reacted swiftly to a call by the BDS National Committee (BNC) and wrote to Total Produce explaining how Agrexco was involved in the illegal and immoral occupation and exploitation of Palestinian land, urging them not to invest in Agrexco. They also warned the company that investment in Agrexco would turn Total into the next target of the BDS campaign.

“There is now a clear pattern of companies targeted by BDS campaigners going into serious financial meltdown” said Adel Abu Ni'meh, head of the Palestinian Farmers’ Union (part of the BNC). “Agrexco and Veolia, two major companies strongly linked to illegal Israeli settlements are both in serious trouble now. This shows that BDS hits companies complicit in Israeli occupation, colonialism and apartheid where it hurts: their bottom lines”.
The news come only days after Veolia, a French company targeted by the BDS campaign because of its involvement in illegal Israeli settlement projects, announced it would massively scale-back its global operations.

A Tel Aviv judge gave Agrexco bankruptcy proceedings a final extension Thursday, as Israeli company Kislev now seems to be the only serious buyer, according to Israeli financial news website Globes. There was one other bid from a Dutch company, but the judge dismissed it as "having more holes than Swiss cheese".

Agrexco has been a prime target of Palestinian solidarity activists calling for BDS against Israel until it ends its illegal and criminal policies against Palestinians.

A new coalition of European campaigners last month promised to “put an end to Agrexco’s presence in Europe”. Twenty-three groups signed a declaration saying they had established mechanisms to coordinate boycott campaigns and court actions against the Israeli exporter.

NOTES FOR EDITORS:
* Sources: “Agrexco stay of proceedings extended”, Globes, 11 August:

Veolia, major target of Palestinian BDS campaign, in financial crisis”, BNC, 8 August:

“Palestinian civil society warns Irish company against purchase of Israeli exporter”, BNC, 1 August:

* Sold under brand names such as Carmel, Coral, Biotop and Eco-Fresh, Agrexco products from illegal West Bank settlements have routinely been mislabelled and submitted with papers claiming they originate inside the Green Line. Such attempts to fraudulently qualify them for preferential customs treatment under the EU-Israel Association Agreement have led to censure in the British Parliament. Agrexco has recently suffered acute financial problems that have led to bankruptcy proceedings being brought against them in the Israeli capital Tel Aviv. In June, Israeli business publication Globes reported “heavy losses” for Agrexco, as the fresh produce company struggled to manage its debt. Fruitnet.com recently reported the company owed creditors €106 million. For more information see:

The Jerusalem Light Rail tramway that Veolia is involved in building and operating is explicitly designed to cement Israel’s grip on illegal West Bank settlements and tie them more firmly into the state of Israel. Veolia also operates other settlement infrastructure projects: It runs bus services for Israeli settlers on settler-only roads linking the settlements with Israel. These roads have decimated Palestinian towns and villages by stealing their land for construction and cutting them off from each other. Through its subsidiary TMM, Veolia also collects refuse from illegal settlements at buries it at the illegal Tovlan landfill site in the occupied Jordan Valley. For more background:

Veolia, major target of Palestinian BDS campaign, in financial crisis
Posted on August 8, 2011 by BNC media

* French multinational Veolia to cut back global operations after €67.2 million losses
* BDS campaign has cost Veolia large contracts across Europe over its illegal Israel project
* Losses comes on heals of Agrexco’s financial woes, another main BDS target

Only days after losing out on another lucrative contract in London, French waste and water company Veolia on Thursday announced it would scale back its operations in several countries after a surprising first-half net loss of €67.2 million.

The news came less than two weeks after Israeli agricultural exporter Agrexco, another main target of the Palestinian civil society-led, global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, faced a bankruptcy hearing in a Tel Aviv court.

Veolia has been a major target of the BDS campaign due to its involvement with several Israeli projects that blatantly violate international law, including the infamous light rail project linking illegal colonial settlements in occupied Palestinian territory with Jerusalem.

“Veolia is paying the price for its involvement in Israel’s policies of occupation and apartheid against the Palestinian people,” said Jamal Juma’a, coordinator of the Palestinian Grassroots Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (Stop the Wall), which is part of the Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC). “The company has been losing contracts left, right and centre, to the tune of billions of dollars. No matter how large, no corporation can absorb such huge and sustained financial losses”. Odeh added, “This is bound to trigger loud discontent among Veolia’s shareholders, eventually leading to a stern demand for an immediate end to the company’s complicity in illegal Israeli projects.

After persistent local campaigns all over Europe, Veolia has lost out on many waste collections contracts, especially in the United Kingdom and Ireland, where Palestine solidarity activists led the efforts. BDS campaigners have been targeting local councils and municipalities demanding that contracts with Veolia be dropped due to its “grave misconduct”.

The latest such victory came on Wednesday in Ealing, West London, after the council failed to select Veolia for a comprehensive tender for its domestic refuse, street cleaning and parks maintenance contract. Veolia had been given the previous parks maintenance contract.

Activists had written to and met with councillors, detailing Veolia’s involvement in the illegal Israeli occupation. The contract would have been worth approximately £300 million over 15 years – one of Ealing Council’s largest single contracts.

Sarah Colborne, Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) Director, said in a press release: “Veolia’s loss of this contract, following its failure in a number of significant bids in Britain and internationally, is a clear sign that Veolia is paying a high price for its complicity in Israel’s occupation and violations of international law.”

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Veolia “announced a corporate overhaul of the company that includes divestitures and a significant geographic scale-back”. They also reported Veolia’s disclosure of 2007-2010 accounting fraud in the US, amounting to €90 million.

Company officials are reported to have said the scale-down is related to “financial difficulties encountered by Veolia’s customers”.

Israeli company Agrexco has also suffered acute financial problems that have led to bankruptcy proceedings, and calls for the company to be broken up. Like Veolia, Agrexco top managers also attributed their losses to markets and other financial factors, deliberately omitting any mention of the evident impact of the boycott.

FOR MORE INFORMATION:

The Palestinian BDS National committee (BNC):
media@bdsmovement.net
www.bdsmovement.net

NOTES FOR EDITORS:

* The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) is a coalition of Palestinian civil society groups. It was formed as the Palestinian reference point in the broad campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), which resulted in the July 2005 Palestinian Call for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel, with the initial endorsement of over 170 Palestinian organizations.

* Source of Veolia news: “Veolia Posts Loss, Plans Shake-Up” [$], The Wall Street Journal, 5 August.

* The Jerusalem Light Rail tramway that Veolia is involved in building and operating is explicitly designed to cement Israel’s grip on illegal West Bank settlements and tie them more firmly into the state of Israel. Veolia also operates other settlement infrastructure projects: It runs bus services for Israeli settlers on settler-only roads linking the settlements with Israel. These roads have decimated Palestinian towns and villages by stealing their land for construction and cutting them off from each other. Through its subsidiary TMM, Veolia also collects refuse from illegal settlements at buries it at the illegal Tovlan landfill site in the occupied Jordan Valley. For more background:

* In June, Israeli financial publication Globes reported “heavy losses” for fresh produce company Agrexco, as they struggled to manage debt. Fruitnet.com recently reported the company owed creditors €106 million. Partly-owned by the Israeli government, Agrexco is responsible for 60-70% of the agricultural produce grown in Israel’s illegal settlements in occupied Palestinian territories (OPT). For more background:

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