Archive for June, 2009

Derail Veolia and Alstom Campaign

Posted in International BDS Actions on June 30, 2009 by Marcy Newman

CityPass and the Jerusalem Light-Rail Project

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

Geneva Conventions

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

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

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.

Useful Links

Australian Dump Connex Website

UK Derail Veolia and Alstom Campaign Website

Factsheet when completed

Author Naomi Klein in Bil’in: Boycott Israel

Posted in Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions on June 30, 2009 by Marcy Newman

Bil’in – Ma’an – Canadian author Naomi Klein called for an international boycott of Israel during a visit to the West Bank village of Bil’in on Friday, where she also attended a weekly demonstration against Israel’s separation wall.

Klein held a news conference in Bil’in, which is known for its tenacious demonstrations against the Israeli barrier, on the first of her nine days in the region, where she is promoting a recent translation of her book, the Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.

“When we hear about what happens at the demonstrations… When people are killed and badly injured in lawful demonstrations against something that is clearly illegal, that isn’t a normal situation,” she said.

“We’re rejecting normalization,” Klein said of her Middle East visit, “We’re rejecting the idea that there can be apolitical cocktail parties and book signings while violence like this is taking place so nearby.”

The news conference took place under the shade of an olive tree, in full view of patrolling Israeli forces, the separation barrier, and an Israeli settlement. Afterwards, 200 chanting Palestinian, Israeli and international demonstrators marched on the fence. Israeli soldiers rained tear gas on the marchers.

Teenagers hurled stones back at the soldiers amid black smoke from burning tires. Choking on gas, two men had to be helped into an ambulance, and medics administered aid to dozens of protesters. Klein herself watched from a safe distance.

As a part of her push for a boycott, Klein is donating the royalties her the book to her local publisher, Andalus, which specializes in translating Arabic texts into Hebrew. She is also working closely with Palestine’s Boycott National Committee (BNC), and refusing to cooperate with Israeli state institutions during what she called an “unusual book tour.”

“We very much believe that culture is political and that cultural producers should use their skills in order to highlight the resistance to occupation and to strengthen that resistance,” she said, speaking alongside Basel Mansour, a member of Bil’in’s Popular Committee Against the Wall, and attorney Wisam Ahmad of the Palestinian human rights organization Al-Haq.

Klein said she was compelled to join the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement during the Israeli attack on Lebanon in 2006. “I’m actually ashamed that it took me as long as it took me,” she said.

“We’re hoping the book will be a success, and No Logo was a success here in Israel. That will largely depend on whether Israelis decide to boycott me,” the author said, referring to a previous bestselling work. “We’re very aware that that’s a real possibility, but we feel that we’re calling their bluff.”

“It’s a boycott of Israeli institutions. It’s a boycott of the economy,” Klein said. “It’s an extraordinarily important part of Israel’s identity to be able to have the illusion of Western normalcy.”

“When that is threatened, when the rock concerts don’t come, when the symphonies don’t come, when a film you really want to see doesn’t play at the Jerusalem film festival because the people who made the film decided not to come then it starts to threaten the very idea of what the Israeli state is,” she also said.

Klein said the boycott campaign is “trying to create a dynamic which was the dynamic that ultimately ended Apartheid in South Africa.” She added that while there are aspects of the situation in Palestine that are not as severe as they were under Aparthied in South Africa, “On the other hand, the South African state never bombed Soweto.”

Bil’in, which is losing more than half its land to the wall and Israeli settlements, is also pursuing legal action against two Canadian companies, Green Park International and Green Mount International, for their involvement in the illegal construction of the colonies. A preliminary hearing on the case began in a Quebec court earlier this week.

“Really, what this court case is doing in Canada is breaking through the propaganda barrier,” said the Canadian author. “We hear all the time in our corporate media, which is a very pro-Israeli media, that this is the only democracy in the region. And yet, this court case has become a way to put that claim on trial.”

Australian Groups Endorsing BDS

Posted in International BDS Actions on June 30, 2009 by Marcy Newman

Below is a list of Australian based unions and groups that are now endorsing the BDS campaign

CFMEU – Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union

NSW Branch

http://www.cfmeu-construction-nsw.com.au/

Maritime Union of Australia

Western Australia Branch, Delegates Meeting

University of Western Sydney Students Association
www.uwssa.org.au

Australians for Palestine
www.australiansforpalestine.com

Committee for the Dismantling of Zionism
Australia

Just Peace Queensland
www.justpeaceqld.org

Justice for Palestine

Brisbane
www.justiceforpalestinebrisbane.org

Women for Palestine
www.womenforpalestine.org

Australia

Melbourne dumps Connex following boycott campaign

Posted in International BDS Actions on June 30, 2009 by Marcy Newman

Press release, Australians for Peace, 28 June 2009

The following press release was issued by Australians for Peace on 25 June 2009:

Connex has been dumped by the Victorian State Government as Melbourne’s train system operator. Moammar Mashni of Australians for Palestine said that after four months of campaigning and some 100,000 pamphlets distributed, Palestine advocacy groups can take heart.

“This is the first step in what we hope will become a strong boycotts, divestments and sanctions movement (BDS) in Australia against Israel’s apartheid policies,” Mashni said. “Our boycott pamphlet asked people to send a detachable petition to Minister Kosky and we understand that thousands have landed on her desk.”

The Dump Connex campaign had been run to alert Melbourne’s commuters to the unethical agreement that Connex had entered into with Israel. Under the contract, Connex had agreed to operate a public transport service to Jewish settlements that Israel is continuing to build deep inside the occupied West Bank in defiance of international law.

“However,” said Mashni, “Connex may be losing on that score as well. Only recently, its parent company Veolia announced that it would be seeking to pull out of its contract with Israel to build the Jerusalem light rail, due to some $7 billion worth of losses. There is no doubt that the BDS campaigns run by Palestine solidarity groups in Europe had a lot to do with that.”

These worldwide boycotts have become necessary as Israel continues to ignore calls to halt its illegal settlement expansion in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

“They are,” said Mashni, “nonviolent actions that were shown to be most effective in ending apartheid rule in South Africa and Australia can expect to see many more such actions being taken against companies doing business with Israel.”

Naomi Klein speaks on Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions in Bil’in, Palestine

Posted in Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions, Cultural Boycott on June 30, 2009 by Marcy Newman

Prior to the demonstration a press conference took place, where a representative of the village’s popular committee, a member of the Palestinian Boycott National Committee and world renowned Canadian journalist and author Naomi Klein spoke of the local struggle, of the village’s new court case in Canada against Canadian companies building the new neighborhoods on Bil’in land, on the boycott, and of the inability to detach art and politics.

Author Naomi Klein calls for boycott of Israel

Posted in Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions on June 28, 2009 by Marcy Newman

BILIN , West Bank (AFP) — Bestselling author Naomi Klein on Friday took her call for a boycott of Israel to the occupied West Bank village of Bilin, where she witnessed Israeli forces clashing with protesters.

“It’s a boycott of Israeli institutions, it’s a boycott of the Israeli economy,” the Canadian writer told journalists as she joined a weekly demonstration against Israel’s controversial separation wall.

“Boycott is a tactic … we’re trying to create a dynamic which was the dynamic that ultimately ended apartheid in South Africa,” said Klein, the author of “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.”

“It’s an extraordinarily important part of Israel’s identity to be able to have the illusion of Western normalcy,” the Canadian writer and activist said.

“When that is threatened, when the rock concerts don’t come, when the symphonies don’t come, when a film you really want to see doesn’t play at the Jerusalem film festival… then it starts to threaten the very idea of what the Israeli state is.”

She briefly joined about 200 villagers and foreign activists protesting the barrier which Israel says it needs to prevent attacks, but which Palestinians say aims at grabbing their land and undermining the viability of their promised state.

She then watched from a safe distance as the protesters reached the fence, where Israeli forces fired teargas and some youths responded by throwing stones at the army.

“This apartheid, this is absolutely a system of segregation,” Klein said adding that Israeli troops would never crack down as violently against Jewish protesters.

She pointed out that her visit coincided with court hearings in Quebec in a case where the villagers of Bilin are suing two Canadian companies, accusing them of illegally building and selling homes to Israelis on land that belongs to the village.

The plaintiffs claim that by building in the Jewish settlement of Modiin Illit, near Bilin, Green Park International and Green Mount International are in violation of international laws that prohibit an occupying power from transferring some of its population to the lands it occupies.

“I’m hoping and praying that Canadian courts will bring some justice to the people of Bilin,” Klein said.

Her visit was also part of a promotional tour in Israel and the West Bank for “The Shock Doctrine” which has recently been translated into Hebrew and Arabic. Klein said she would get no royalties from sales of the Hebrew version and that the proceeds would go instead to an activist group.

French activists protest Paris air show

Posted in International BDS Actions on June 25, 2009 by Marcy Newman

A group of French activists from the BDS France campaign held a non- violent protest against the Israeli presence at the Paris – Le Bourget Air Show. Le Bourget Air Show is one of the largest weapons and aerospace technology fairs in the world. The protest took place outside the Israeli pavilion, where several Israeli arms companies had come to sell their military technologies to potential European buyers.

On 20 June, protesters gathered under the banner ‘Boycott Israel’. They denounced the sale of weapons and weapon components to Israel on the basis that they are used to commit war crimes against civilians. They also exposed French complicity in these war crimes, pointing out that components marked “made in France” were found in the wreckage of missiles used to commit war crimes during the attack on Gaza in early 2009. Further, Israeli firms test their products on Palestinians before exporting them to the international market. The arms trade allows these these companies to profit from war crimes, and as such protestors demanded an end to such business links. The protesters also denounced the presence of Israeli war criminals at the air show, demanding that war criminals be tried and punished, not welcomed by the French state.

The action took place while French president Nicolas Sarkozy was visiting the air show. Although some protesters were forcibly removed by police, the demonstration had great visibility and several thousands of informational leaflets were distributed to the public.

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