West Bank case against CRH thrown out by court

Irish Independent - Business Week - - BUSINESSWEEK - John Mulligan

A $34bn (€28bn) US law­suit launched last year by Pales­tinian ac­tivists against dozens of com­pa­nies in­clud­ing Ire­land’s CRH, has been dis­missed by a Wash­ing­ton DC court.

The ac­tivists had tried to sue about 40 de­fen­dants for al­leged “prof­i­teer­ing” re­lated to the con­struc­tion of Jewish set­tle­ments in the West Bank. The com­pa­nies sued ranged from Hewlett-Packard, Volvo and Mo­torola, to se­cu­rity firm G4S.

Last year, and prior to the law­suit be­ing launched, CRH sold its 25pc stake in Is­rael’s only ce­ment firm, Mashav, end­ing a fo­cus of huge con­tro­versy for the Ir­ish com­pany – Ire­land’s big­gest.

Mashav is the hold­ing com­pany for a firm called Nesher, whose ce­ment has ul­ti­mately been used to make huge con­crete slabs that were used to con­struct the wall di­vid­ing the West Bank from Is­rael.

CRH had been pre­vi­ously tar­geted by pro-Pales­tinian ac­tivists at its AGMs, who pressed for the build­ing ma­te­ri­als firm to sell its stake in the Is­raeli busi­ness.

In March last year, more than two dozen plain­tiffs – mostly in­di­vid­u­als but also some Pales­tinian vil­lage coun­cils – filed the law­suit in Wash­ing­ton DC.

The law­suit claimed that Is­rael’s sep­a­ra­tion wall with Pales­tine, “nu­mer­ous check­point con­crete bar­ri­ers, the con­crete foun­da­tions in all West Bank set­tle­ments, and Is­raeli in­fra­struc­ture in the West Bank were all built us­ing ce­ment pur­chased from Nesher”.

The plain­tiffs al­leged that Nesher knew the ce­ment it pro­duced would be used for “ag­gres­sive set­tle­ment ex­pan­sion and thus eth­nic cleans­ing of the lo­cal Pales­tinian pop­u­la­tion”.

In de­ter­min­ing the es­ti­mated dam­ages sought in the case, the plain­tiffs ar­gued through their lawyers that many of the de­fen­dant firms had “pil­laged” Pales­tinian re­sources.

“Since none of th­ese de­fen­dants had re­ceived li­cens­ing agree­ments from the le­git­i­mate prop­erty own­ers to ex­ploit the re­sources owned on that prop­erty and have no recorded deeds which for­mally trans­ferred own­er­ship to them, they have com­mit­ted the war crime of pil­lage for ap­prox­i­mately 30 years,” lawyers claimed.

The Wash­ing­ton DC court has dis­missed the law­suit, say­ing it lacked ju­ris­dic­tion over the mat­ters raised in it.

Last month, Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu vowed that the West Bank set­tle­ments would never be evac­u­ated.

“We have re­turned here for eter­nity,” Mr Ne­tanyahu said. “There will be no more up­root­ing of set­tle­ments.”

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