Volvo turns blind eye to use of its machines to demolish Palestinian homes
In this posting, 2 reports by Adri Nieuwhof documenting in words and photos the use of Volvo machines to demolish Palestinian homes and mosques;third is a brief link to ICAHD’s enumeration of structures demolished in 2012. Fourth, the media release from Al Haq about its new report, Feasting on the Occupation: Illegality of Settlement Produce and the Responsibility of EU Member States under International Law. Last, notice of a JBIG conference Palestine solidarity and Jewish opposition to Zionism.
Demolition in Bedouin village of Umm al-Kheer on 25 January 2012. Photo by Ta’ayush
By Adri Nieuwhof, Electronic Intifada
January 10, 2013
On 4 December 2012, Israeli forces used Volvo equipment to demolish a mosque in the Palestinian village al-Mufaqarah in the south Hebron hills.
At sunrise, Israeli police and soldiers arrived to protect the Volvo machine and to keep Palestinians at a distance. The mosque was built on the ruins of another mosque that was destroyed about a year ago. Watch the raw footage of the destruction, as published by the al-Tuwani project.
Volvo Group’s activities have drawn the attention of UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk. In a recent report to the UN General Assembly, Falk addresses the legal responsibility of business enterprises and corporations in activities relating to Israel’s settlements in the occupied West Bank, presenting Volvo as a case study.
Falk recommends civil society to “vigorously pursue initiatives to boycott, divest and sanction” the companies mentioned in his report, until they bring their policies and practices into line with international laws and standards.
Volvo equipment was also seen in action in the Bedouin village of Um al-Kheer on 25 January 2012. The bulldozers – escorted by military jeeps – demolished two houses that were not even under demolition order. The destructive action left an elderly couple, a mother and her nine children homeless.
The soldiers pushed people who wanted to stop the demolition away. Operation Dove filmed the demolition. A BBC report contains footage which clearly shows the Volvo equipment in action.
Photos of Volvo equipment appeared in a 5 January 2012 report by Wadi Hilweh Information Center in Silwan on the demolition of four Palestinian homes in Jericho. The homes were located in Area C of the occupied West Bank. The center reports:
A huge number of Israeli forces surrounded the neighborhood at 10am, then cordoned off an area and barred entry to residents. Home owners and journalists were also prevented from entering, with officers citing security reasons. The four demolitions were carried out with no prior warning given to the residents. One owner, Saleem Siyam, and his family, had 5 minutes to remove their furniture and belongings from their home, while the other three families were given no opportunity.
Volvo must take its responsibility
Falk cites in his report Mårten Wikforss, Volvo Vice President for Media Relations and Corporate News. In 2007, Wikforss stated in response to criticism relating to thedemolition of a Palestinian home in Beit Hanina, in East Jerusalem:
It is, of course, regrettable and sad if our products are used for destructive purposes. We do not condone such actions, but we do not have any control over the use of our products, other than to affirm in our business activities a Code of Conduct that decries unethical behaviour.
Wikforss added that “there is no way Volvo ultimately can control the use of its products.”
This answer did not satisfy Falk, who concludes that all companies that operate in or otherwise have dealings with Israeli settlements should be boycotted, until such time as they bring their operations fully into line with international human rights standards and practice.
Volvo Group should finally take its responsibility, for example by including in contracts that equipment may not be used in Israel’s unlawful acts such as the demolition of Palestinian property, the construction of the wall or settlements in the occupied West Bank. Modern GPS technology is used to track down people, so why can’t it be used to track down machines assisting Israel’s violations of international law?
Businesses must respect international law
Falk’s report is based on the principle that business enterprises and companies must respect international humanitarian law and should respect human rights. They should “avoid infringing on the human rights of those living under occupation and address adverse human rights impacts with which they are involved.” This basic principle was affirmed by the UN Human Rights Council when it adopted the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights on 16 June 2011.
In addition, Falk refers to the Global Compact, a leading global voluntary initiative for corporate social responsibility which addresses the issue of business and human rights. Volvo is a member of the Global Compact. The first two its ten principles are:
1) Businesses should support and respect the protection of internationally proclaimed human rights; and
2) Make sure that they are not complicit in human rights abuses.
Volvo presented as case study
Falk presents in his report 13 case studies of companies involved in activities relating to Israeli settlements in the West Bank, including Public Eye Award nominee G4S, Caterpillar, Veolia Environnement, Ahava, Elbit Systems, Motorola, Hewlett Packard, Assa Abloy and Volvo. Falk writes:
Volvo equipment and products are used in the demolition of Palestinian homes, the construction of the wall and the construction of Israeli settlements. Further, Volvo holds a 27 per cent share in the Israeli company Merkavim, which is a business that manufactures buses that are used to transport Palestinian political prisoners from the occupied Palestinian territory to prisons in Israel. The other 73 per cent of Merkavim shares are owned by Mayer’s Cars and Trucks, an Israeli company that exclusively represents Volvo in Israel.
Falk reminds Volvo of its commitment to respect human rights as laid down in its own code of conduct. In addition, as member of the Global Compact Group, Volvo pledges to realize and integrate the ten principles regarding human rights, work conditions and environment into its operations.
Meanwhile, activists and social responsible investors will follow Falk’s advice and intensify their pressure on Volvo Group.
By Adri Nieuwhof, Electronic Intifada
January 17, 2013
Israeli forces use a Volvo machine for new demolitions in the South Hebron Hills on 14 January. Photo from Operation Dove
My recent report (above) on the use of Volvo equipment on the demolition of a mosque and two homes by Israeli forces prompted readers to send me information about other demolitions.
The photo above shows the Volvo machine that Israeli forces used for demolitions in the Palestinian villages of Umm al-Kheer and Hawara in the South Hebron Hills on 14 January. Click here to watch a video. I received the following report from an eyewitness:
On the morning of 14 January, the IDF [Israel Defense Forces] demolished four structures in the Palestinian villages of Um al-Kheer and Hawara, South Hebron Hills, West Bank. At 8.55 am the Israeli army, Border Police and DCO [District Coordination Office] broke into Um al-Kheer village with two bulldozers (Volvo and JCB) and destroyed a stone and metal shelter for sheep. According to the villagers, a family composed of eight people was living in this shelter because the bad weather damaged their house-tent last week. After that, the military convoy went to Hawara village and demolished three buildings: a regular house inhabited by 15 people, a summer house inhabited by nine people for seven months a year and a small stone structure. On their way, the bulldozers caused heavy damages to fields of olives and wheat.
One year ago, a Volvo bulldozer was used to demolish two houses in Um al-Kheer, leaving an elderly couple and a mother and her nine children homeless.
A Volvo machine used in a demolition in al-Khalyala during April last year.
The Electronic Intifada obtained the photo above which shows the Volvo machine that was used by Israeli forces to demolish the Palestinian village of al-Khalayla on 18 April 2012. The village is situated in the occupied West Bank next to the Israeli settlement of Givat Zeev. The International Committee of the Red Cross immediately provided the six displaced families with emergency shelter kits. However, Israeli forces dismantled and confiscated the emergency shelters the following day, according to the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). In its “humanitarian monitor” briefing for November-December 2012 OCHA stated:
In November 2012, six Palestinian families from the al-Khalayla Bedouin community were finally forced to leave their homes after a series of demolitions and other pressures to leave their area. These families have been living for more than 35 years in what is now a barrier enclave northwest of Jerusalem [al-Khalayla, next to the Givat Zeev settlement bloc]. Their displacement this month occurred after multiple demolition waves, as well as repeated demands by the ICA [Israeli Civil Administration, a military body which oversees the occupation of the West Bank] for the community to relocate.
The al-Khalayla community belongs to the Jahhalin tribe and comprises seven households, totaling 23 adults and 35 children, all of whom are registered refugees from the Naqab [Negev], now in southern Israel. The families rely on raising livestock and employment in nearby Israeli settlements as their primary income source. The al-Khalayla site belongs to a family from the nearby al-Jib village, with whom the community has an agreement.
Meanwhile, I found that Volvo can track the movement of its equipment with the CareTrack facility which is advertised on the firm’s website as providing
the knowledge and information you need to make the right decisions and to increase profitability. All you need to do is log in to your password-protected web site, where you get both an overview and detailed information about your machines.
In addition, Volvo mentions the advantages that “you can lock in the machine in a geographic area where it should operate,” and that “you always know where the machines are.”
Volvo should display its commitment to its own code of conduct and UN human rights guidelines by using CareTrack to prevent its machines from being used by the Israeli occupation.
For comprehensive information on the demolition of Palestian homes and structures, go to ICAHD
Demolitions in 2012
Structures Demolished: 598, Houses Demolished: 191, People displaced: 886
Media Release, Al Haq
January 14, 2013
Al-Haq is pleased to announce the publication of the position paper “Feasting on the Occupation: Illegality of Settlement Produce and the Responsibility of EU Member States under International Law.” The study examines the extent to which trading in settlement produce has become an essential step in the consolidation of Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise. International stakeholders, particularly the European Union (EU), are directly contributing to the growth and viability of settlements by providing an essential source of revenue that allows them to thrive. This is especially true of settlements in the Jordan Valley, at least 60 per cent of which are dependent on agriculture.
By trading in settlement produce, EU Member States are ignoring the illegality of settlements and settlement-based production operations. In doing so, they are breaching their customary international law obligation not to recognise as legal a situation arising from a serious breach of peremptory norms (fundamental principles of international law)*, as defined in Article 41 of the International Law Commission Draft Articles on State Responsibility. By engaging in the trade of settlement produce, states are also failing to comply with their obligation to actively cooperate in order to put the Israeli settlement enterprise to an end. Consequently, a ban on trade in settlement produce is one of the measures that EU Member States should adopt to comply with their customary international law obligations.
Commenting on the report, Shawan Jabarin, General-Director of Al-Haq, said, “As the single largest trading partner of Israel, the EU is in a very strong position to effect positive change on the current situation of Occupation. And yet, while the EU has been quite outspoken in condemning settlements and their expansion, they continue to import produce from these same settlements and in doing so, help to sustain their very existence.”
The Government of Israel estimates that the value of goods produced in settlements in the West Bank and exported to Europe amounts to approximately 300 million USD per year. While this may represent a relatively small proportion of Israel’s total exports, it still amounts to a considerable quantity in absolute terms. Crucially, such trade, while contributing to the permanence and growth of settlements, has an increasingly negative effect on Palestinian communities and the Palestinian agricultural sector.
“As things stand,” continued Mr. Jabarin, “the EU is doing little more than ticking a box by acknowledging that settlements are illegal. Until they support this rhetoric with action and ensure that no assistance or recognition are provided to settlements, even indirectly, any such criticism will continue to be meaningless.”
Al-Haq calls upon the EU to comply with its legal obligations and act in accordance with Article 215(5) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) so as to ban produce originating from Israeli settlements in the OPT. In case the EU fails to comply with its obligations, Al-Haq calls upon EU Member States to individually uphold their legal obligations stemming from customary norms of international law to adopt a ban on the import of such produce.
The paper demonstrates that the adoption of restrictive measures against settlement produce would not contravene any provision of EU or national law, or any provision of the World Trade Organisation’s “General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)” Regulations.
In addition, the report calls upon relevant United Nations bodies to recall the precedent set by ‘conflict diamonds’ and to set up an effective mechanism to investigate and report on the relationship between trade in settlement produce and the entrenchment of the settlement enterprise.
Saturday March 2, 1.00 – 7.00 pm including entertainment
24 Greencoat Place, London SW1P 1RD
This half-day conference offers everyone working for Palestinian rights a chance to reinforce their knowledge of Zionism, its rejection of Jewish radical traditions, its conflation of antisemitism with criticism of Israel and its attempts to undermine Palestinian solidarity work – in particular the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS).
Proceedings will start with BUNDA’IM, a short film introducing the last comrades of the Bund mass movement. Exterminated in Europe and ignored in Israel, its ideas live on.
Discussions will be led by speakers including:
Sue Blackwell – British Committee for the Universities of Palestine (BRICUP)
Michael Deas – Palestinian BDS National Committee coordinator in Europe
Antony Lerman – author of The Making and Unmaking of a Zionist
John Rose – author of The Myths of Zionism
David Rosenberg – Editorial Committee, Jewish Socialist magazine
£10 waged, £5 unwaged/concessions (incl. refreshments)
The J-BIG event is part of “A Weekend of Two Conferences”. Book it together with the full Sunday session on Alternative Jewish Culture and Identity for just £25/20.
Details from: J.Reclaimed@gmail.com