The Israeli Exploitation of Palestinian Natural Resources: Part III: Ashtrom Nov 2016
As part of the series on the Israeli Exploitation of Palestinian Natural Resources, this update discusses the involvement of the Ashtrom Group in the occupaied Palestinian territory. The Ashtrom Group is one of the largest construction and real estate companies in Israel. Through its many subsidiaries, the group operates in the fields of construction, infrastructure, development, industry, property income and housing services. The Ashtrom Group has a long history of operations in the occupied territory, including construction and infrastructure projects on occupied land and systemic exploitation of Palestinian natural resources.
The Ashtrom Group: Extraction and Construction on Occupied land
The Ashtrom Group is one of the largest construction and real estate companies in Israel. Through its subsidiaries, the group operates in the fields of construction, infrastructure, development, industry, property income and housing services. The Ashtrom Group has a long history of operations in the occupied territory, including construction and infrastructure projects on occupied land and systemic exploitation of Palestinian natural resources.
Construction of the wall and checkpoints
The company supplied construction materials to the Israeli Ministry of Defense for checkpoints ("terminals") in the separation wall apparatus.
On the 10th of February 2004, the Israeli Ministry of Defense published a list of Israeli contractors who won tenders as part of the construction of the separation wall on the Seam Zone Administration website. The announcement stated that Ashtrom had provided concrete elements for checkpoints along the wall.
Construction in settlements
Ashtrom has built housing projects in the settlements of Oranit, Alfei Menashe, Ma'ale Adumim and Beitar Illit and in the settlement neighborhoods of Gilo, Ramat Eshkol and Nof Zion in occupied East Jerusalem.
Starting in 1970, Ashtrom has been engaging in settlement construction beyond the Green Line. According to Ashtrom’s website, the company participated in the construction of Ramot, the first Jewish settlement neighborhood in East Jerusalem, with the construction of the Ramot Polin project, which included 728 housing units and public buildings, in 1970. Ashtrom also states on its own website that in 1994, it was involved in the establishment of the Beitar Illit settlement in the West Bank. Ashtrom's involvement in the expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories continues to this day, through its fully-owned subsidiaries.
According to Ashtrom’s website, in recent years the company has constructed housing projects in the settlement neighborhoods of Gilo, Ramat Eshkol and Nof Zion in East Jerusalem and in the settlement of Beitar Illit – through its fully-owned subsidiary Ashtrom Jerusalem Prefabrication Industry.
On the 1st of July 2008, Who Profits documented an advertisement at the construction site of the settlement neighborhood of Nof Zion near Silwan in East Jerusalem, which notes Ashtrom as the contractor.
Ashdar Building Company
Ashdar Building Company, a fully-owned subsidiary of the Ashtrom Group, reported in its annual report for 2010 that it has built housing projects in the settlements of Oranit and Alfei Menashe. In 2014, the Ashdar Building Company constructed two housing projects in the settlement of Beitar Illit, which consist of 200 housing units.
Ashdar (Karnei Shomron), a fully-owned subsidiary of the Ashdar Building Company, acquired land from Palestinians for the expansion of the Oranit settlement, where its headquarters are located.
In 2015, the company had finished the construction of the first stage of Ashdar in Beitar, a 128 unit housing project in the settlement of Betar Illit. The second stage of the project finished in 2016, with an additional 72 housing units.
In 2017, the company will construct a 464 unit housing project in the settlement neighborhood of Gilo in occupied East Jerusalem.
Ownership of structures in Barkan and Imanuel industrial zones
A subsidiary of the Ashtrom Group, Mivney Ta’asiya Batzafon (fully owned by Ashlad, a fully owned subsidiary of Ashtrom properties), owns 32,247 square meters of properties in the Barkan Industrial Zone and 6,466 square meters of property in the Immanuel Industrial Zone. The company also operates a factory in the Atarot Industrial Zone.
In the West Bank, there are some 20 Israeli industrial zones. These industrial zones are located in Area C. They were established on land allocated by the Supervisor of Government and Abandoned Property in the West Bank, and are declared as closed military zones.
According to a report by Human Rights Watch published on January 2016, “the ostensible purpose of settlement industrial zones is to develop the local economy in “Judea and Samaria” and provide employment for settlers.” The report also states that the industrial areas in Alfei Menashe, Shilo and Beit El are in part or entirely built on private Palestinian land, as are individual industrial buildings in a number of other settlements. Barkan Industrial Zone, among the largest in the settlements, is at least partially built on privately owned Palestinian land, but Israel refuses to recognize the owners’ claim to the land.
Companies in industrial zones benefit from rent and tax rates that are generally lower than in Israel. The Israeli government also offers subsidies that make it more profitable for companies to operate in settlement industrial zones. These subsidies are awarded in reliance upon the government’s designation of most industrial zones as “National Priority Area A”. It is worth noting that the lack of legal clarity and government oversight in settlements has created a “pollution haven” for high-polluting industries.
The Jerusalem Light Rail
The Ashtrom group is a partner (42%) in the CityPass consortium, which has built and currently operates the Jerusalem Light Rail. The Jerusalem Light Rail (JLR) became fully operational in December 2011, and it is the first of several lines included in Jerusalem’s planned mass-transit system. Currently, its trams carry some 130,000 passengers a day along a 13.8 kilometer route from West Jerusalem to the settlement of Pisgat Ze’ev in East Jerusalem, crossing the Green Line and the Palestinian neighborhoods of Shuafat and Beit Hanina.
According to Ashtrom’s website, the company's subsidiary Ashtrom Engineering and Construction has built the JLR depot in the settlement neighborhood of Pisgat Ze'ev. In addition, the company has engaged in paving bricks manufactured by Netivei Noy – formerly a subsidiary and now a current brand of the group.
Who Profits has documented Netivie Noy’s bricks during the construction of the railway of the Jerusalem light rail on 12 June 2009.
Exploitation of Palestinian Natural Resources
Ashtrom also partakes in the exploitation of natural resources on Palestinian land for the sole benefit of the Israeli settlements’ population, through the operation of a quarry and a stone crusher in the West Bank and a concrete plant in the Atarot industrial zone.
Ahtrom owns and operates the Netivei Beitar stone crusher site, near the settlement of Beitar Illit. Ashtrom also owns 50% of the Netivei Adumit quarry, next to the Mishor Adumim industrial zone. Ashtrom’s annual report for 2015 includes a description of the activities of the Netivei Adumit and Netivei Beitar mining sites.
The company exploits Palestinian natural resources and openly declares that the material excavated from Palestinian land is used for the needs of the Israeli construction sector. According to Ashtrom’s website: “The Netivei Adumit and Netivei Beitar quarries supply various mining and raw materials for the manufacturing of cement mixtures, asphalt, building blocks and road infrastructure throughout the country” (translated from Hebrew). Ashtrom’s website further states that “Ashtrom Industries operates the Adumit quarry in Mishor Adumim, which supplies a variety of raw materials for the production of cement mixtures,” and continues on the same page: “Ashtrom Industries also operates a stone crusher in the area of Beitar Illit, which crushes and supplies quality raw materials, such as gravel and sand products, to the construction and infrastructure industries” (translated from Hebrew). The Ashtrom Group also owns Isra-Beton, which operates a concrete plant in the Atarot industrial zone in the West Bank. Who Profits has documented the Netivei Beitar quarry on 27 November 2008, the Netivei Adumit quarry on 11 June 2015, as well as the entrance sign to Isra-Beton’s site in Atarot on 11 June 2015.
Palestinian Political Prisoners
According to Ashtrom’s website, in 2013 the company collaborated with the Israeli Prison Service in the construction of Hasharon prison, in which female Palestinian political prisoners are detained. In addition, the group took part in the construction of the Ofer prison in the West Bank, which is exclusively intended for Palestinian political prisoners. A tender by the Israel Prison Service for the expansion of the Ofer prison (April 2009) states that the new prison section will be built using Ashkubit prefabs, a fully-owned subsidiary of Ashtrom. Ashkubit also supplied modular concrete structures to the Ramon prison within Israel, in which Palestinian political prisoners are incarcerated. According to a response from the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) to a Freedom of Information request submitted by Who Profits in 2015, Askubit was contracted by the IPS to provide structures and construct a new wing in one of the prisons.
According to the website Electronic Intifada, in February 2015 there were 6,000 Palestinian political prisoners held by Israel, among them 182 Palestinian children.
According to the Palestinian NGO Addameer, at least 700,000 Palestinians were detained under Israeli military orders in the oPt until the year 2010. This number constitutes approximately 20% of the total Palestinian population in the oPt and as much as 40% of the total male Palestinian population. During this time, an estimated 10,000 Palestinian women have been arrested or detained under Israeli military orders. In November 2010, 36 Palestinian women were incarcerated in Israel’s detention centers and prisons, mainly HaSharon and Damon. Both of these prisons are located outside the occupied territory, in direct contravention of Article 76 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which states that an occupying power must detain residents of an occupied territory in prisons inside the occupied territory.
Ashtrom Group’s revenues for 2015 were NIS 41 million.
Ashtrom Group’s controlling shareholder is Unedco United Engineering and Development Company (58.7%), an Israeli holding company that is owned by five Israeli families: Gueron, Nussbaum, Meshorer, Rubin and Lifschitz. An additional 19% of the company’s shares are owned by Allied Holdings. The rest of the shares are held by several Israeli funds.
The company’s subsidiaries include: Ashdar Building Company, Israbeton, Ashlad, Ashkubit Industrialized Building Co, Ashbat Industrial Construction, Ashcrete Concrete Products, Ashtrom Engineering and Construction, Basepile, Derachim Building and Development (S.A.Z.), MLT Buildings, Netivei Beitar, Netivei Adumit, Ashtrom Jerusalem Prefabrication Industry, Central Bodies, Ashtrom International (USA), Ashtrom Properties Europe (The Netherlands) and Ashtoh Properties Germany (Germany).
The Ashtrom group is active in Nigeria, Bulgaria, Georgia, Romania, Serbia, USA, Germany, Netherlands, Cyprus, Portugal and Jamaica.