Globe Scan

Violations set in stone

Heidelberg Cement in the Occupied Palestinian Territory Maha Abdallah, Lydia de Leeuw
January 2023

Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) have been subjected to ongoing Israeli occupation and colonisation policies depriving them of their basic rights. Among others, this has been manifested in the unlawful exploitation of natural resources in the OPT, resulting in a wide array of human rights violations and intensifying the de-development and capture of the Palestinian economy by the Occupying Power and business enterprises. Israeli and multinational corporations operating and active in the OPT under Israel’s administration are knowingly complicit in breaches of international law against the occupied Palestinian    population. Unsurprisingly, these companies have benefited from the already-existing culture of impunity for Israel’s prolonged occupation and the lack of (the enforcement of) regulatory frameworks under international law, namely humanitarian and human rights law, for businesses operating in the OPT to avoid liability and whitewash their unlawful activities – accompanied by the lack of political will of third States in this regard.

The Nahal Raba stone quarry, operated by the German multinational Heidelberg Cement through its subsidiary Hanson Israel, provides a clear example of corporate complicity in grave breaches of international humanitarian law that may amount to internationally recognised st Palestinians. The case study in this report documents the direct and indirect implications of the quarry and its activities in the past 13 years on the lives of Palestinian communities living nearby as well as the Palestinian population as a whole.

Heidelberg Cement’s extraction of Palestinian natural resources, namely stone, has taken place in a context of deliberate    institutional policies aimed towards the confiscation and exploitation of Palestinian land and resources by Israel, the Occupying Power. Consequently, Palestinians

have been denied their right to self-determination, access and sovereignty over their natural resources, while their economy suffers from a continued state of captivity and de-development. The Palestinian economy has been stripped of billions of dollars each year. Conservative estimates by the World Bank indicate that the missing revenues amount to USD 3.4 billion per year, which has the potential to   increase the Palestinian GDP by about a third.1 The potential value which could be generated by mining production in the occupied West Bank, wherein

Heidelberg Cement operates, is estimated at USD 900 million annually.2

Key Findings

Human Rights Violations Resulting from the Quarry’s Operations

  • The Right to Self-Determination and to Permanent Sovereignty over Natural Resources:

Heidelberg Cement’s activities, comprising quarrying and manufacturing of materials in the Nahal Raba quarry in occupied territory contribute to the infringement of the Palestinian right to self-determination and to permanent sovereignty over natural resources, a fundamental principle of international law.

Exploiting an Unjust Legal System: Israeli jurisprudence allows for the exploitation of natural resources in the OPT, as can be seen from the Israeli Supreme Court’s decision in 2011.

  • Disseminating Misinformation Regarding its Responsibility: Heidelberg Cement denies that its activities cause harm to Palestinians and their economy and result in human rights abuses. Heidelberg Cement also denies its role in bolstering Israel’s exploitative and expansionist policies in the OPT, including those that contribute to the maintenance and growth of Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise.
  • Claim to Benefit the Affected Community: in an apparent effort to deflect criticism of their operations in the OPT, HeidelbergCement claims that its activities in the Nahal Raba quarry benefits Palestinians, including the claim to provide job opportunities and projects for their benefit. HeidelbergCement has also established a Palestinian subsidiary under the jurisdiction of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank, in an apparent attempt to enhance its image. The Palestinian subsidiary is unlinked to its activities in the Nahal Raba quarry, and it remains unclear what its economic activity or value constitutes.
  • Undermining Rightful Owners and Communities: by shaping a distorted narrative which frames its operation of the quarry as benefiting the local population, Heidelberg Cement not only manipulates how its activities are perceived, but it also feeds into the structural de legitimisation of the affected population’s struggles against foreign occupation and associated corporate interests.
  • Shielding the Parent Company from Liability: Heidelberg Cement has structured the transnational corporate group into distinct legal entities and carried out its operations through an Israeli subsidiary to insulate the parent company from liability.
  • Irresponsible Disengagement through the Sale of the Quarry to Avoid Liability: in May 2019,

Heidelberg Cement announced that it had decided to sell the Nahal Raba quarry and that

a ‘disposal process was started’. Often, companies turn to disengagement as a method

to avoid bearing responsibility for human rights violations they are involved in and to maintain their reputation – without mitigating the adverse impacts or allowing for effective redress.


This report is based on desk and field research between September 2018 and January 2020.

The desk research included a close examination and analysis of Heidelberg Cement’s  records and publications, company statements, available news articles, and correspondence between the company and civil society organisations and journalists. The aforementioned has enabled us to elicit the relevant corporate strategies to avoid liability and continue its activities contrary to its responsibilities under international law – as highlighted in the report. The field research included a dozen visits to the affected villages, and twelve individual and group interviews with members of the communities and other relevant civil society members, in order to better understand the impacts of the company’s activities, and to give a voice to those most affected by the company’s illegal activities. The section containing corporate information relied mainly on Heidelberg Cement’s annual reports and access to different engines, including LexisNexis,

Thomson Reuters Eikon, and Orbis, that allow for examinations of corporate developments, and companies’ shareholders and investors respectively. In addition, the corporate information relevant to the Israeli subsidiary (Hanson Israel) relied on access to the Israeli Registrar of Companies, detailing its subsidiaries’ different owners and affiliations. The research also relied on years of in-depth and rigorous research conducted by different organisations concerned with business-related human rights abuses in the context of Israel’s occupation.

Heidelberg Cement was given the opportunity to review and comment on the draft report in the last two months of 2019. Where relevant, the comments of the company were processed in the final version of this report.


Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT): refers to the territory occupied by Israel in 1967, comprising the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.

Settlement Enterprise: civilian colonies or settlements in the form of residential communities,industrial zones, agricultural areas, among others, illegally established in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, encouraged and facilitated by the Israeli government and official

Institutions to transfer their civilians into occupied territory. Settler-Colonial Enterprise: an enterprise that functions through the replacement of indigenous populations with the civilian population of the Occupying Power, i.e., settlers.

Israel has worked to develop laws and policies that would enable it to seize control and expand its settler-colonial enterprise primarily through entrenching its territorial control of Palestinian land, its illegal settlement enterprise and annexation measures.

Colonisation: the process of settling, establishing control and an open claim to sovereignty over indigenous lands and populations, or adopting measures that deliberately deny, or demonstrate an intention to permanently deny, the indigenous populations the full exercise of their sovereign rights and their right to self-determination.

The Green Line: the 1949 Armistice Line, which is internationally accepted as the boundary between Israel and the OPT. Its name derives from the green ink used to draw the line on the map during the peace talks.

Pillage: pillage is when a perpetrator intentionally appropriates property and allocates it for personal and private use, including land and natural resources. In accordance with the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, pillage constitutes a war crime when committed in the context of an international armed conflict, including situations of military occupation.

Occupation: a stage of international armed conflict that arises when a territory, or parts thereof, come under the effective control of a foreign hostile armed force, even if it is not met with armed resistance. An occupation should remain a temporary regime which does not lead to any claim of sovereignty.

Occupying Power: the foreign hostile regime which has the effective control of a territory. It does not, however, acquire sovereignty but rather acts as the de facto administrator of the territory. Annexation: incorporating occupied territory into the territory of the Occupying Power; an act

prohibited under international law. Israel’s deliberate annexation policy in the OPT is most apparent on three fronts: the annexation of East Jerusalem, the continued settlement construction and expansion, and the aggressive appropriation of essential Palestinian resources.

The Israeli Civil Administration: is part of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), which is a unit of the Israeli Ministry of Defence. The Israeli Civil Administration administers its rule over the OPT through military orders.

Coercive environment: an environment formed of unliveable conditions and created through the Israeli government’s adoption of a wide range of laws, policies, and practices designed and intended to displace and forcibly transfer Palestinian communities from the region.


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