In 2002, the CityPass consortium won a tender put out by the Israeli authorities for a light rail transportation project worth around 500 million Euros. This light rail system would link with settlements in the Occupied West Bank. The path of the light rail follows the Apartheid Wall and incorporates a number of Jewish settlements around East Jerusalem that are built on stolen Palestinian land. It will ensure the contiguity of these settlements into the central areas of Jerusalem and provide them with a vital transport link.The project plays a key role in sustaining the settlements and ensuring they became a permanent fixture upon Palestinian land, while at the same time maintaining a system of Apartheid that isolates Palestinians and limits their mobility.
The project, a private-public partnership PPP between the Israeli Occupation government and the consortium, is hinged upon the willingness of international business groups to provide a huge injection of capital. In turn these companies will reap significant profits and dividends over a thirty-year period.
The Light-Rail Project and International Law
The building of settlements and the Apartheid Wall in Occupied East Jerusalem and the West Bank violates international law. Article 49 of the 4th Geneva Convention provides that: “…The Occupying Power shall not deport or transfer parts of its own civilian population into the territory it occupies” – all settlements in the West Bank are by definition illegal. The Wall currently under construction in the West Bank was declared illegal by the International Court of Justice, which in 2004 called for it to be dismantled. The light railway project violates international law not only because it is built on occupied Palestinian land, but also because it is an extension of Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise and the Apartheid Wall.
Colonialism and Apartheid
A recent report, entitled Occupation, Colonialism, Apartheid? A re-assessment of Israel’s practices in the occupied Palestinian territories under international law conducted by The Middle East Project of the Democracy and Governance Programme, Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa found that Israeli policy and activities in Occupied East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip violate the international prohibitions of colonialism and apartheid. The Wall and settlements are cited as key components of Israel’s apartheid and colonial system. This report explicitly states “Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem is manifestly an act based on colonial intent. It is unlawful in itself, as annexation breaches the principle underpinning the law of occupation: that occupation is only a temporary situation that does not vest sovereignty in the Occupying Power. The light rail project is vital to the Israeli colonial annexation of East Jerusalem because it provides infrastructure to settlements which further ensures that they become a permanent fixture on Palestinian land.
Derail Veolia and Alstom Campaign
The CityPass consortium responsible for the light rail project includes two French companies: Veolia and Alstom. There is a global campaign to boycott these companies until they withdraw from this project and bring their business practices in line with international law.
Veolia’s parent company is Veolia Environnement, a large French multinational. Veolia is made up of several subsidiaries that work within the transportation and waste management industries. Connex, a subsidiary of Veolia Environnement, is a leading partner in the CityPass consortium. Veolia also provides transportation services between Jerusalem and settlements, and its waste management services are involved in illegally dumping waste from settlements in the Tovlan landfill in the Jordan valley.
Alstom is a multinational corporation that specializes in both energy technologies and the transportation sector. In addition to building the light-rail system, they also work within the Israeli energy sector and have recently placed several bids for contracts with the Israel Electric Co.
Victories in the Derail Veolia and Alstom Campaign
To date, Veolia has lost an estimated 7 billion dollars in contracts due to the campaign. Some key victories include:
June 2009: In response to the Dump Connex campaign, the City of Melbourne, Australia has stripped Connex of their contract to run Melbourne’s trams and Hong Kong’s MTR. More information
June 2009: Reports indicate that Veolia is withdrawing from the light rail project, but this has not been confirmed. Alstom remains involved in the project. Despite this apparent victory, the campaign will continue until the light-rail project has been defeated completely. More information
June 2009: Following pressure from the Boycott National Committee (BNC), the city of Tehran announces that Veolia will be excluded from bidding for key contracts in the city’s transportation services. More information
April 2009: Galway, Ireland City Council votes not to renew Veolia’s contract to operate the city’s underground transport system. More information
April 2009: A French Court agreed to hear the case that launched against Veolia and Alstom by Association France-Palestine Solidarité and the PLO in 2007. This case could set precedence for taking legal actions against corporations in their home countries for international law violations they commit in Palestine. More information
April 2009: Veolia loses a contact worth 750 million Euros in Bordeaux, France. More information
March 2009: The Swedish National Pension fund divests from Alstom. More information
January 2009: Veolia loses 4.5 billion dollar contract to run the subway in Stockholm, Sweden. More information
November 2006:ASN, a Dutch bank, breaks off financial relations with Veolia. More information
August 2006: Irish Trade Union forces Veolia to cancel plans to train Israeli drivers and engineers in Ireland. They were to be trained on the Dublin Luas, a railway line in Ireland that is nearly identical to the one being constructed in Jerusalem. More information
On-Going Campaigns and Targets
The campaign against Veolia has seen significant victories and continues to gain momentum. It is time to put increased pressure on Alstom as well.
The key to organizing successful local campaigns is finding contracts that are up for renewal and/or new contracts that these companies are likely to bid on. It is at these key times that pressure for boycott can and should be applied. Some research has already been done into Alstom and Veolia’s inset link here contracts worldwide, but the campaign relies on local research to discover boycott and divestment targets in your area.
How to find local Veolia and Alstom targets
A good place to start is a google search with the name of your city/state/province/country and ‘Alstom’ or ‘Veolia’. You can also go to the company’s website (Alstom and Veolia) search for your city/state/province/country. The sites often include country specific links which are especially helpful. Both of these searches should give you information about existing contracts and their expiry dates, as well as information about bids that these companies have put in for contracts in your area. You should also do internet searches for news of bids for contracts in transportation, water and waste management in your local area. These are the key sectors in which these companies operate.
Students can conduct research into the investments and sponsorships of their universities and colleges. If a school invests in or profits from these companies, a divestment campaign can put pressure on the administration to break these ties. Trade unions can do similar research about the pension plans and other investments of their employers in order to find divestment targets.
Factsheet when completed