International Law

White Oil

White Oil
Judy Price

This field research examines the extraction and expropriation of stone from the quarries in the Occupied Palestinian Territories of the West Bank. Moving image is employed to explore the lived experiences of people and address the way in which the quarries are not just industrial spaces but also lived spaces.

This web version of White Oil relates to a sixty-five minute single screen film, which explores the quarries as multilayered spaces where conflicts over land, excavation, ownership and identity and statehood take place.

White Oil is field research that draws on observational cinema, visual ethnology and dialogical aesthetics.  My method has been to form intimate encounters with the quarries, their locality and the geopolitical and spatial relations of the West Bank. Spending time in these spaces, through repeated visits and building relationships with my co-participants over a three-year period, with an emphasis on listening has been absolutely vital to the project in which knowledge unfolds.

Derek Gregory’s work exemplifies the value of post-structuralist geography in my methodologies, in his book Geographical Imaginations. (1) Gregory argues that in the searching out of spaces we must address the way meanings are ‘spun around the topoi of different lifeworlds and threaded into social practices and woven into relations of power’. (2) In exploring the spatial dynamics of the West Bank this is highly resonant. The West Bank is a space of fragmentation and enclaves where relations between Israeli settlers, Israel’s Occupying Force, Israeli entrepreneurs and Palestinians are as conflicted as they are dependant on each other. They produce a geographic space in which any over view of how these different forces interact is exceedingly complex and always inevitably incomplete.

We can perceive the quarries as a ‘meeting place’ (3) of different forces and dynamics to explore how the physical, human, economic and political landscapes are folded into these quarry spaces, and both produce and are produced as a result. As such the research engages with: the quarry spaces, their proximity to residential areas, the environmental effects, the importance of the quarries as providing a livelihood for Palestinians, the use of the material excavated and Israel’s investment in the quarries, the arduous labour needed for excavation of the stone (Palestinians are not allowed to use explosives), the way the West Bank is divided into different zones by the Occupation and how this impacts on how Palestinians use their land, and issues of mobility and lack of other available work.

(1) Derek Gregory, Geographical Imaginations (Blackwell, 1994).

(2) Derek Gregory, Geographical Imaginations (Blackwell, 1994), p.76.

(3) Doreen Massey, ‘A Global Sense of Place’, Marxism Today (June 1991), pp. 24–9.

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International Law

As an occupying power Israel is prohibited by international law from expropriating the West Bank’s natural resources.

The quarries epitomise the destruction of the natural and social environment of the West Bank through the ‘systematic pirating of Palestinians’ natural resources’.(1) The expropriation of raw material from quarries owned by Palestinians and the increasing expansion of Israeli-owned quarries in the OPT are also a violation of international law and under the Fourth Geneva Convention. (2)

A report by Yesh Din (an Israeli volunteer organisation working to defend the human rights of the Palestinian civilian population under Israeli Occupation) claims that seventy-five percent of the stone and sand from the OPT quarries is exported to Israel and to other continents (the Stone and Marble Union estimate a figure of sixty-five percent).(3) This colonial and global model of exploitation is further intensified by the increasing inability of the international world to hold Israel to account for its palpable illegal and human rights violations as an occupying force.

International Law
Artist/Author: Judy Price

As an occupying power Israel is prohibited by international law from expropriating and utilising the West Bank’s natural resources unless it is for the sole benefit of the occupied population, the Palestinian people.(4) Hague Regulation 55 states that an occupying power should only be regarded as 

the administrator and usufructuary of public buildings, real estate, forests, and agricultural estates belonging to the hostile State, and situated in the occupied country. It must safeguard the capital of these properties, and administer them in accordance with the rules of usufruct. (5)

It also states that an occupying power will be liable to pay the occupied territory a lease if it profits from its land, in addition to a percentage of profits acquired from a business or industry.

This has been totally ignored by Israel. In 2009 Yesh Din submitted a petition to take to court the IOF, the Israeli civil administration and a number of Israeli mining companies accusing them of illegally extracting raw resources from the West Bank quarries for the sole benefit of the Israeli construction industry and the building of settlements as an ‘illegal transfer of land in the most literal of senses’. (6) In 2012, the High Court of Justice recommended that there should be no new Israeli quarries opened in the OPT, ‘whose main purpose is to produce quarry materials for sale in Israel’. (7) However they rejected Yesh Din’s petition regarding the expropriation of raw materials from Palestinian quarries. The reason given was that:

the laws of occupation must be interpreted to accommodate long-term occupation, in such a way which accords the occupying forces greater powers. The court also noted that Israel’s quarry activity in the West Bank benefits the Palestinian residents, since they can enjoy the employment opportunities they offer. The court based its judgment on the Israeli-Palestinian interim agreement which leaves the quarries in Area C under Israeli control, as a proof that the PA has consented to the quarries’ operation. (8)

There is, however, no wording in the interim agreements regarding Area C that indicates that the PA gave consent, nor does the PA have the right ‘to consent to the violation of the Palestinians’ human rights’. (9) As Yesh Din’s General Director Haim Erlich makes clear:

The HCJ [High Court of Justice] has already enabled the settlement enterprise with its rulings as well as the separation fence that cuts through Palestinian villages, and now it is allowing the continued theft of the Palestinian quarries for the Israeli economy. This crosses yet another red line of violation of international law, in complete contempt of the rights of the occupied people under Israeli rule. (10)

The West Bank has effectively become a zone of free enterprise for Israeli entrepreneurs investing in projects like the quarries. This picture is further complicated by the fact that partnerships between Palestinians and Israelis’ are created in order to exploit the quarry industry. There is no ‘body’ to oversee investments such as these, protect workers rights, prevent damage to the local environment, or give something back financially and economically to the Occupied Palestinian Territories. 


(1) The Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ), ‘Wadi Al-Teen Quarry and the Systematic Expropriation of Palestinian Natural Resources’, (1997) <> [accessed 3 September 2013].Derek Gregory, Geographical Imaginations (Blackwell, 1994), p.76.

(2) Ibid. 

(3) Zafrir Rinat,’Yesh Din Petition: Israel Pillages West Bank Resources’, Haaretz (10 March 2009) < > [accessed 3 September 2013].

(4) The Applied Research Institute – Jerusalem (ARIJ) <> [accessed 3 September 2013].

(5) International Committee Red Cross, Treaties and States Parties to Such Treaties,  (The Hague, 18 October 1907) <–200065> [accessed 3 September 2013].

(6) Rebecca Anna Stoil, ‘Mining in W. Bank Violates International Law’, The Jerusalem Post (3 September 2009) <> [accessed 3 September 2013].

(7) Yesh Din, ‘HCJ Legalizes Quarrying in the West Bank by Israeli Companies’ (2011) <> [accessed 3 September 2013].

(8) Ibid. 

(9) Ibid. 

(10) Ibid.


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