Water is essential for life, a matter well known to Palestinians who regularly suffer imposed and ongoing water restrictions in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza. This article reports on the relatively little known fact that multinational Israeli water, irrigation, and sewage companies have made significant inroads into the sizeable UK market, and examines the most important of these.
Mapal Green Energy
Mapal (‘waterfall’ in Hebrew) Green Energy started at Kibbutz Yagur, still its head office, on land once owned by the Palestinian village of Yajur. According to Palestinian historian, Walid Khalidi in All that Remains: the Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948, ‘no traces of the houses remain on the site, which is marked by numerous fig trees and a smaller number of olive trees’. Mapal’s correspondence address is Bar Yehuda Road, Nesher, where two Palestinian villages were depopulated in 1948. As far as apartheid goes, Nesher excels: out of its 2018 population of 23,983, 238 are classified as ‘Arabs’.
Founded in 2008, Mapal uses a ‘patented’ method of treating sewage so it can be reused called Floating Fine Bubble Aeration (FFBA). As the Jerusalem Post, for instance, states Mapal ‘developed a diffuser that stays on the surface of the water and shoots air bubbles down into the pool, which is much more effective’. When Mapal entered the UK water market in 2013 its first customer was Anglian Water, a major supplier. Since then, two other major suppliers, United Utilities and Thames Water, also installed FFBA. According to the Times of Israel “Mapal Green Energy’s Israeli-made aeration recycling system now serves some 30 million Britons.”
This is almost half of the UK population, but such a penetration remains almost unknown in the UK, a classic case of ‘under the radar’. To see, try googling ‘Mapal’ or ‘FFBA’ in the British press. The reason is possibly, as no one will respond to my questions, that the UK water business is eager to avoid negative publicity. Mapal Green Energy’s office in the UK is 1 Hallswelle Road, London, NW11 0DH, and its phone is 01903 899 419.
Israel’s largest hedge fund, FIMI Opportunity Funds, controls two multinational Israeli water companies operating in the UK. The first is Amiad (‘my nation forever’ in Hebrew) Water Systems, located in Kibbutz Amiad. It ‘was built after 1948 on the ruins of the Palestinian Bedouin village of Jib Yusuf’. Amiad manufactures products like hydraulic irrigation filters, and wholly owns its UK subsidiary, Amiad Water Systems (UK). Late 2019, FIMI took a controlling 46% stake in Amiad Water Systems, with agreement to extend to majority ownership.
Amiad (UK)’s office is Unit 43, Equinox South Business Centre, Bristol, BS32 4QL, phone 01792 277290. Its Chief Executive Officer is Irit Ben-Dov of Kibbutz Amiad, and its Chief Financial Officer is Dori Ivzori of Kibbutz Mishmar Haémek. It’s big enough to justify listing on the London Stock Exchange where it states, “Amiad provides cost-effective ‘green’ solutions for the irrigation and industrial purposes … for filtration and water treatment, micro irrigation and membrane protection, wastewater and potable water treatment…” Naturally, not a word about Jib Yusuf. Amiad (UK)’s reported revenue for 2018 was £113.92 million.
Rivulis, formerly John Deere Water, is the second FIMI controlled company. It was purchased in 2014, and its irrigation products are sold in 15 countries. In 2017 Rivulis merged with Greek company Eurodrip “creating a global leader in micro irrigation … The merged company will be headquartered in Gvat, Israel and will be named Rivulis Irrigation”. Rivulis doesn’t have a UK office, and its products are sold by major suppliers such as K.A.R. which also sells water products by other Israeli water companies, eg Tavlit. FIMI retains around 60% of shares in Rivulis Irrigation. FIMI also owns or controls a host of companies closely tied to the oppression of Palestinians such as prison company G1, and Gilat Satellite Systems.
Arad Metering Services
Arad Metering Services “designs, develops, manufactures, sells and supports its cutting-edge water meters to residential, bulk, irrigation and water management companies around the world’. Its UK office is Unit 2B, Alton Business Park, Herefordshire, HR9 5BP, phone 01989 565229, and its products are widely available from K.A.R. and Mercom Water Products. As to its history, Arad Ltd was founded in Palestine in 1941, and is based within what is now the ‘UNESCO biosphere reserve’ of Ramot Menashe. In The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, Israeli historian Benny Morris explained Ramot Menashe is close to Daliyat al-Rawha’, a depopulated Palestinian village.
Last, but definitely not least, is Netafim (‘to drip’ in Hebrew), a huge Israeli kibbutz multinational that began selling drip irrigation across the colonised Palestinian territories. If you check out ‘drip irrigation’ on Google, it’s a means of reducing the amount of water used by laying plastic tubes at ground level, or just below, and dripping water and nutrients. Netafim (UK) was incorporated as Revaho in 1994, but changed its name in 2012. As the UK has no shortage of rain, Netafim has a smaller presence compared to countries with low rainfall and drought problems. Its UK office is 2B Penketh Place, West Pimbo, Skelmersdale, Lancashire, WN8 9QX, phone 01695 556 222.
As far as its history goes, Netafim was founded in 1965 by Kibbutz Hatzerim. In Let There be Water: Israel’s solution for a Water-Starved World, author Seth Siegal writes that Hatzerim was “among the eleven settlements established in … 1946 to solidify the pre-State claim to the Negev Desert.” In 1978, Netafim brought in Kibbutz Yiftah which was established in 1948 near the ancient village of Qadas, once all Palestinians had been expelled. Khalidi says “stones from the destroyed houses are strewn over the fenced-in site, and a few partially destroyed walls near the spring are visible.”
In 2020, Netafim is still the world’s largest provider of drip irrigation, with 30% of the market. As so often happens with the close relationship between business and the military in Israel its C.E.O., Ran Maidan, was previously C.F.O. of another defense company, Elisra Defense Group, which produces “new generation Airborne Self-Protection Suites, including passive IR missile warning for a variety of aircraft such as helicopters, fighters, transport and commercial aircraft, as well as C3IRST solutions, state-of-the-art search and rescue systems and much more.”
The penetration of the UK water, irrigation and sewage market by the main Israeli multinationals I’ve mentioned is significant, and in some instances, very significant. However, a google search of ‘Israeli investments in UK water’ reveals only few articles in business sites, confirming its ‘under the radar’ status, while in Israeli newspapers and media, such as the Jerusalem Times, it’s covered with pride.
Then there are the connections between some of these water businesses and the Israeli Defence Force and Prison Service.
All this should be made clear to UK users and potential purchasers of Israeli water, irrigation and sewage products, as well as shareholders in publicly listed Amiad (UK), and Members of Parliament. As this an international matter, promoting awareness of these Israeli companies’ penetration of markets in the United States, and across Europe, should be considered