A few days ago, the Dutch police’s National Crime Squad raided the offices of the Riwal Holding Group in the city of Dordrecht, confiscating computer files and documents relating to the leasing of cranes owned by the company’s Israeli branch for the construction of the Israeli “separation wall” and of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Police findings have been passed on to the Dutch State Prosecution, which should decide whether or not to prosecute the corporate executives – including the Israeli businessman Doron Livnat – on charges of violating international law.
The affair started with the 2004 ruling by the International Court in The Hague, which determined that construction of the “separation wall” within the West Bank territory constituted a violation of international law, and that if Israel wants to build a border fence to prevent infiltration into its territory it should have been placed on the border, i.e. on the 1967 Green Line. Accordingly, the International Court judges called upon all UN member states and Geneva Convention signatories not to cooperate with erection of the wall and to prevent their citizens from any such cooperation.
In 2006, a Dutch television crew filmed cranes active in construction of the separation fence and of settlements, which bore the Riwal company logo. Dutch Labour Party MPs raised the issue and addressed parliamentary questions to the minister of foreign affairs. As a result, the Dutch government in 2008 warned the Riwal Company not to engage in activities in the Occupied Territories. But the organization United Civilians for Peace in Amsterdam found evidence that the company ignored the government warning and continued this activity.
Last year the Palestinian human rights organization Al Haq of Ramallah engaged the Dutch law firm Bohler. On its behalf, attorney Liesbeth Zegveld lodged a complaint with the legal authorities this year. The Oct. 13 raid on the Riwal Dordrecht offices is a tangible result of this activity.
Gush Shalom, the Israeli Peace Bloc, regards this episode as yet another alarming sign of Israel’s deteriorating international position, fast slipping down to a disastrous total isolation. “A decade ago, authorities in the Netherlands would not have considered taking such measures,” Gush Shalom said. “The Israeli government, renewing settlement construction, promoting loyalty oaths and ever new provocations, confronts the entire world, alienates Israel’s best friends and takes us on a mad gallop into the abyss”.
Riwal is the largest company in the Netherlands in the field of building cranes, and among the largest in the world. The Riwal Israel company, active also under the name Lia Holding, was in the news a few years ago when a business dispute between it and the competing Avi Cranes escalated into violence and the setting of cranes on fire.
Adam Keller is a spokesperson for Gush Shalom.
Photo: Construction of an Israeli settlement in Palestinian East Jerusalem, in 2007. (PW/Susan Webb)