Israeli Court Rejects Bid to Close Palestinian Quarries for Environmental Reasons

Forum for a Green Israel asked to close four legally operating Palestinian quarries, while ignoring Israeli-owned quarries in the West Bank.

Alex Levac

The High Court of Justice this week rejected a petition by the Forum for a Green Israel against the continued operation of Palestinian quarries in the West Bank, accusing them of causing serious environmental pollution. The nonprofit organization was ordered to pay the quarries and the state 5,000 shekels ($1,300) each in legal costs.

The Forum for a Green Israel was founded by Gilad Ach in 2011 after his older brother, who served in the naval commandos, died of cancer, which the family says was the direct result of his military training in the contaminated waters of the Kishon River in Haifa. The Israel Defense Forces denies any such connection.

One of the group’s projects is to document Palestinian quarries in the West Bank, which it says are operating illegally. Ach is also involved in placing people in left-wing and human rights organizations to document what they call abuses by these groups, and expose them in the media. In an interview with the “Uvda” (Fact) investigative reporting show on Channel 2, Ach said his activities concerning the human rights groups began when during his activities against the quarries he saw demonstrations by Palestinians and Israelis who confronted police officers, so he decided to also investigate these organizations.

As part of his actions against the quarries, Forum for a Green Israel activists observed the quarries’ operations and even rode in trucks transporting the quarry products. The group investigated only Palestinian-owned quarries, some of which operate in Area B, and did not relate to the 11 Israeli quarries operating in the West Bank.

The Israeli and Palestinian quarries are fierce business rivals because the quarries in Area B do not operate according to Israeli environmental, health and safety laws, so they can charge lower prices.

The Forum for a Green Israel submitted its High Court petition last September, asking the court to close four Palestinian quarries. The petition claimed the quarries operate illegally without permits, are stealing natural resources and destroying the landscape. “The pirate quarries do not pay royalties and sell materials in the Israeli construction market at low prices, and in doing so mortally damage the Israeli quarries that operate according to law,” states the petition.

The state said in response that one of the quarries is in the area of the Palestinian Authority and Israel is not connected to the matter in any way. As for the other three quarries, which operate in Area C, where Israel has full civilian and military control, the state said they are located on privately owned land, so they do not pay royalties. All the quarries have licenses and contribute to the development and growth of the region, said the state in its response, and two of the three quarries have been operating since before 1967.

Supreme Court Justice Menachem Mazuz rejected the petition out of hand on Wednesday, without holding a hearing. Mazuz said the government’s actions and considerations were completely appropriate, and the demand to immediately close the quarries ignores the authorizations the quarries have received to operate for decades based on various permits, and are not operating illegally.