Yesh Din Petition: Israel Pillages West Bank Resources

Israel is violating international law and pillaging natural resources in an occupied territory by allowing Israeli-owned quarries to operate beyond the Green Line, the nonprofit organization Yesh Din Volunteers for Human Rights stated in a petition to the High Court of Justice yesterday.

The group is asking the court to issue an interim injunction to suspend excavation and quarrying, until a final ruling on the petition. The petition asks the state to show why it is permitting the mining, allowing quarrying concessions to be issued, and extending existing licenses.

There are about 10 Israeli-owned quarries beyond the Green Line in Area C, which is under the Israeli Civil Administration jurisdiction. Owners include some of the country's largest mining and quarrying companies. These quarries produce mainly gravel, most of it for the Israeli market. They provide approximately one-quarter of the construction industry's mined materials.

The Yesh Din petition, which was prepared by attorney Michael Sfard, states the mining is a clear violation of international law on occupied territories. The law states the occupier may manage the natural resources in the occupied territory, but bans it from using these resources for its economic needs. The petition states Israeli planning takes for granted that some of the raw materials will continue to come from quarries beyond the Green Line.

"This exploitation of natural resources imposes extensive liabilities on Israel, raising heavy suspicions of grave international law violations," states the petition. "Nevertheless, the relevant government authorities are incapable of stopping that violation because, as in many other cases of economic exploitation and enslavement, the enslavers themselves have become addicted to the exploitation, 'counted' on it, 'planned' around it, and cannot imagine the world without it."

The Yesh Din organization asked the Civil Administration to respond to its claim, and states that based on its response, the legality of the quarries has never been examined.

Inter alia, the response of the Judea and Samaria legal advisor states: "Following your request, we asked for staff work to be carried out in the Civil Administration to map the data and examine the current policy. ... We will also look into the international law aspects that you mentioned in your letter."

Yesh Din lands project coordinator Dror Etkes stated, "This petition will remind anyone who thought the occupation of the West Bank and the Jewish settlements there are guided mainly by ideological principles that Israel and its economy are extracting considerable material profits."