Bad Bus Business

Sonoma County should end its contract with Veolia

| August 08, 2012

Last November, while traveling in the West Bank documenting human rights abuses, I rode on a segregated bus with the "Palestinian Freedom Riders." At Hizma checkpoint outside Jerusalem, I witnessed six Palestinians violently dragged off the bus by the Israeli military.

How does this affect us here? Because Sonoma County has outsourced its operation of publicly owned buses to Veolia Transportation, the North American business unit of French multinational corporation Veolia Transdev, which operates buses in the occupied Palestinian territories. Approximately 80 local transit workers here are directly employed by Veolia. Last month, the Sonoma County Commission on Human Rights heard a presentation outlining human rights violations associated with Veolia's operations.

Veolia operates several bus lines on a network of segregated roads that discriminate against Palestinians. The routes connect Israel to Jewish-only settlements in the occupied West Bank. The company also operates the Tovlan landfill where Israeli waste is dumped onto Palestinian land, and it profits from the Jerusalem Light Rail connecting settlements to West Jerusalem.

Following the lead of South Africans during apartheid, Palestinian civil society has called for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel and companies profiting from or complicit in the occupation. While the BDS movement is more prevalent in Europe and other parts of the world, there has been increasing support in the United States. The Presbyterian Church recently voted overwhelmingly to boycott products grown or manufactured in Israeli settlements. The Methodists and Quakers have passed similar measures.

Pension-fund giant TIAA-CREF removed Caterpillar Inc. from its Social Choice funds portfolio for Caterpillar's role in supplying equipment used in demolishing Palestinian homes and orchards. As transpired with apartheid in South Africa, musicians are now choosing not to perform in Israel, including U2, the Pixies, Elvis Costello, Roger Waters and Carlos Santana. In the 1980s, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors made a principled decision to divest from South Africa. It must now disqualify Veolia from the contract renewal process due to its participation in grave human rights violations against Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.

Deppen Webber has lived in Sonoma County since 1995. He is a graduate of the University of San Francisco and currently works as a caretaker.To submit your 350-word topical essay, write


Comments (5)

Showing 1-5 of 5

I was at the hearing. Photos were shown of Jews and Muslims crowded together on public transportation. Photos were shown of signs and schedules in English Arabic and Hebrew. Frankly, its hard to pretend that these facilities are segregated when all the evidence indicated that they weren't.

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Posted by Mary Morgan on 08/09/2012 at 11:03 PM

If you'd like to see what I saw you can see the video I shot here:… .

To learn more about the segregated roads you can read from Israeli Human Rights group B'Tselem here:

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Posted by Deppen Webber on 08/10/2012 at 11:46 AM

It wasn't just that Arabs and Jews rode the buses together- half the engineers employed by Veolia were Palestinians- and half their bus stops were in palestinian areas. I can't imagine anything less segregated. A heavily edited an biased video is meaningless- can you show me a sign that says "Jews only"? I have not seen a single sign like this anywhere on line- if there were one, surely some one would have photographed it by now. If these facilities were Jews only, are you saying all the photos of a fully integrated system al over the web are fake? At the hearing, they showed exactly the opposite of what you claim- a company and a country going out of their way to provide essential transportion to all segments of the society.

There is no segregation on public transportation in Israel, and Veolia is simply be using as a pawn to give you a venue to bash on Israel. I cant believe youd be willing to have 80 neighboors lose their jobs to push your bigoted one sided agenda

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Posted by Robin cantor on 08/10/2012 at 8:08 PM

Veolia's busses aren't for "Jews only", however, they are instrumental and complicent in Israel's system of apartheid and segregation. It's system of permits, checkpoints, walls, barriers and transportation of settlers (that is against article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention) onto settlements that are considered illegal internationally and within the United States. Veolia obviously does not care about the welfare of a people under a MILITARY occupation who have little rights to exercise and no freedom of movement (one of many "freedoms" not had). It is insulting to hear that many believe signs in three languages is enough to prove that a country is morally competant and does no harm. The fact that there were signs in English and Xhosa did not prove my experience with residents of Khaylitsha Camp, South Africa (2008) to be a joyous and celebrated occation. Veolia runs its busses on roads that cut into the occupied territories and cater to Israeli settlers and certain Arabs who may be lucky enough to attain the proper permit that is made most difficult in order to keep them oppressed (…). You, Robin Cantor, can also take a look at a Wall Street Journal article this year that focuses on the resistance of women in Israel who have been forced to the back of the bus (…). Your statement that public transportation is Israel is not segregated...think again. In Veolia's case, however, although they may not directly segregate their own buses, they run their business that is supports a racist, heinous, disgusting, unfathomable system oppressing the native Palestinian population.

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Posted by Kenneth Walter on 08/11/2012 at 4:05 AM

The checkpoints were established by a treaty- Oslo- and are in compliance with International law. (A treaty is the highest level of international law, until it is superceeded by another treaty) Before the checkpoints, over 10,000 Israelis were maimed and killed in an outbreak of violence known as the second intifada. Before the onset of suicide bombings directed towards Israeli civilians, the borders were wide open. Want them open again? Encourage the Palestinians to sit down and negotate with the Israelis, with no pre-conditions. As inconvienent as the checkpoints are, attacks against Israelis have decreased by over 90% since they were instituted. They are a non-violent way to save lives until there is a real and lasting peace. It is an extremely hard thing to balance- protecting the lives and security of one group of people and the freedom of another. The answer is peace- and peace will not come with finger pointing and pressure on one side alone. Both sides must work together to accomplish this goal. That is why I, as a progressive activist stand firmly against this one sided pressure campaign . Peace is a two way street, and the Palestinians (and their Sonoma County enablers) MUST take responsibilities for their side in this equation.

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Posted by Rahula on 08/11/2012 at 10:11 AM
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