Protest against settler-linked sponsor at the Natural History Museum

Report by Rose, ISM London

On Saturday the 10th April, activists from a coalition of pro-Palestine groups, including ISM, came together to protest against the Veolia sponsored Wildlife Photographer of the Year Exhibition at the Natural History Museum.

Veolia has come under international criticism for their involvement in a light rail tramway system linking west Jerusalem to illegal Jews-only settlements such as Pisgat Ze’ev, French Hill, Neve Ya’akov and Gilo.

Over 60 activists came together from as far and wide as Portsmouth, Sheffield and Cambridge as well as London and Brighton. They stood lining the streets, chanting and handing out leaflets to the numerous visitors to the museum. Many showed great interest in the issues and a number of them stopped to join in for some time.

Again, approximately three Zionists attempted a counter-demonstration, waving Israeli flags and conflating our pro-human rights position with spurious claims of anti-Semitism. Jonathon Hoffman hassled passers by and was repeatedly asked by the lone policeman present to curb his behaviour and not block the visitors to the museum. Hoffman’s accomplice, Richard Miller made his presence known and had to be blocked on a number of occasions from attempting to harass and photograph a group of young Muslim women who had seen the demonstration and were keen to participate.

The protest came to an end at approximately 4pm, having started at 2 o’clock. This is seen as the first of a series of demonstrations that are due to take place up and down the UK as the exhibition goes on tour.

Veolia, a French corporation has interests across the globe and specifically in occupied Jerusalem and the occupied Jordan Valley. They are involved with the construction of the Jerusalem Light Railway which acts to link up illegal Settlements in occupied East Jerusalem with Israel proper. Further to this, they provide waste removal and disposal to illegal settlements in the Jordan Valley which Israel is seeking to have annexed from Palestine and has seen increasingly harsh measures to ethnically cleanse the region of Palestinians. This has included the blocking of water wells, the theft and destruction of water tanks, the demolition of Palestinian homes, harsh restrictions on movement for Palestinians and their goods and the construction of Settlements which take precious ground water for the use in large scale agricultural production thus depriving Palestinian farmers of being able to cultivate their own goods and generate a viable income.

The Wildlife Photographer of the Year competition has a history of controversy with previous sponsors being the oil giant, Shell. The event appears to be an avenue for promoting the positive corporate facade of environmental commitment whilst simultaneously obscuring their destructive and unethical business practices to expand their already grotesquely huge profits.

Additional information relating to Veolia can be found on the BIG Campaign website. Veolia are one of the companies due to be placed under “trial” at the next Russell Tribunal which deals with the complicit nature of companies and conflict, with the 2010 focus being on the Israeli occupation of Palestine.

Indymedia UK has more photos from this demo.