By guest writer Susan Rahman
Hard to imagine what the two might have in common but in this transnational global economy local business is an oxymoron. “Go Local” Sonoma county uses a French multinational corporation, Veolia to operate it’s bus system. This same corporation operates segregated buses in the West Bank delivering settlers from one illegal settlement to another and denying rides to indigenous Palestinians. It has been a long time since we in the United States fought to desegregate our buses and the thought of this flies in the face of all of our countries ideas of civil rights.
The North Coast Coalition for Palestine (NCCP) has been working to persuade county supervisors to end the contract with Veolia and perhaps open the door for a local group to take the contract. Initially the supervisors adamantly refused to consider NCCP’s request. The bid could open July of 2014 but as it stands they may just roll over Veolia’s contract until 2016.
In 2005, Palestinian civil society issued a call for a campaign of boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with international law and Palestinian rights. NCCP is aligned with this movement and has taken on the Veolia boycott as a part of this.
On September 13, 2013, Veolia released a statement to the Sonoma County supervisors saying that they have sold off their bus contract with the settlement transportation. This statement is up for debate as to whether it is in fact true and it does not make mention of the other contracts that Veolia has in West Bank. The group Who Profits notes this as a victory for the BDS movement but reminds us that, “It is important to note that Veolia is still involved in the occupation; in transferring waste to Tovlan landfill in the occupied Palestinian territory through a subsidiary and in the light train through its shares in Citypass and Connex Jerusalem”.
Veolia’s statement came on the heels of the September 15th Petaluma Progressive festival where NCCP collected over 200 signature cards that were then presented to the county supervisors the following day. A press release announced NCCP’s intention of this and it may be that this tipped Veolia off to the group’s intentions prompting their statement.
Included in their statement, Veolia sought to discredit the BDS movement, its founder Omar Barghouti and NCCP. They made false and defamatory statements. These tactics are typical for Veolia. When the Novato water district was deciding whom to hire to run their operations, Veolia was up for the contract. Two vote counts showed that Veolia had lost the contract. After the third re-count they finally determined that Veolia had in fact won. Through this process many people were discredited, harassed and lived under a microscope, all for opposing Veolia. It is a huge multinational with many resources and local groups who go against them do not have the resources to counter their propaganda. Both a lawyer for Omar Barghouti and NCCP have drafted letters to the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors in response to Veolia’s false claims.
To find out what the North Coast Coalition for Palestine is working on please visit:
To see the letter written by Veolia and the response from Mr. Barghouti’s lawyer please visit:
Susan Rahman is a member of the North Coast Coalition for Palestine, a local community college instructor and Project Censored affiliate professor.