Israeli High Court of Justice legalizes the exploitation of natural resources in the OPT
2011 will go down in memory as the year in which the Israeli Knesset has intensified its anti-democratic legislation, while the Israeli High Court of Justice validated once again the structural economic exploitation in the occupied Palestinian territories. On Monday, December 26 the Israeli High Court of Justice rejected a petition filed by the organization Yesh Din, which challenged the legality of the use of natural resources extracted by 11 companies quarrying and mining in the occupied West Bank. This validation adds to the stamp of approval the High Court of Justice already gave to the Israeli settlements and the Separation Wall.
Whoprofits.org' findings, providing evidence for the case against the activities of the companies in the OPT, established that 94% of the materials extracted by quarrying and mining companies active in Area C under Israeli control are used for sale in Israel. The companies transfer some of their profits to the Israeli civil administration in the OPT, which in turn facilitates their activities. Only a fraction of the material is sold to Palestinians. One hand rubs the other in serving the interests of the occupier, contrary to Israel’s duty under the International Humanitarian Law to protect public property in the occupied territories, including natural resources. With this ruling, the status quo of economic exploitation has been legalized and the companies have been authorized to continue their activities without any hinderence.
This ruling is based on disingenuous arguments. The High Court, similar to the companies exploiting the labour of Palestinian workers, argued that Israel's quarry activity in the West Bank provides employment opportunities to Palestinians. Invoking the Israeli-Palestinian interim agreement which leaves the quarries in Area C under Israeli control, the court determined that the PA gave its consent to the quarries' operation. The invocation of the interim agreement is strikingly anachronistic: there is no consent particular to this sector in this (long non-existing) agreement, and even if there was, the PA does not have the authority to agree to the exploitation of natural resources and to the human rights violations deriving from it on behalf of the occupied population.
The High Court did recommend that Israel will not open new quarries in the West Bank, admitting thereby that the resources extracted should be protected from overexploitation. Yet it failed miserably to recognize that the overexploitation for the benefit of occupier has been for over 40 years the order of the day. The court’s ruling perpetuates a situation in which the Palestinian people continue to suffer from land expropriation, the lack of water and other essential necessities, while the Israeli state and private companies rip the benefits of pillaging natural resources in occupied territories, in grave violation of the IHL, international human rights standards and corporate social responsibility codes of conduct.