BNC Statement

Veolia and Alstom feel the heat – BNC calls for intensifying pressure!

Veolia and Alstom feel the heat – BNC calls for intensifying pressure! Occupied Palestine, November 2010 - Veolia and Alstom, the two French companies involved in the construction and management of a tramway linking west Jerusalem with illegal Israeli colonial settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory, described by the UN Human Rights Council as a “clear violation of international law and relevant United Nations resolutions,”1 have both recently been reported to be selling their shares in the consortium that manages the project.

Veolia and Alstom feel the heat – BNC calls for intensifying pressure!

Occupied Palestine, November 2010 - Veolia and Alstom, the two French companies involved in the construction and management of a tramway linking west Jerusalem with illegal Israeli colonial settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory, described by the UN Human Rights Council as a “clear violation of international law and relevant United Nations resolutions,”1 have both recently been reported to be selling their shares in the consortium that manages the project. There can be little doubt that Veolia and Alstom are responding to the overwhelming campaigns launched against them by the Palestinian-led global movement for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel until it complies with international law (BDS). Campaigners have successfully lobbied for the exclusion of Veolia and Alstom from several large public sector contracts and investment funds – the BDS movement has shown that there is a price to pay for actively supporting Israel‟s system of occupation, colonisation and apartheid.

Disguised as a municipal infrastructure project, the Jerusalem Light Rail (JLR) is designed to serve the needs of the approximately 200,000 illegal Jewish settlers who reside within and around occupied East Jerusalem, reinforcing the unlawful Israeli annexation of Jerusalem and facilitating plans for further colonial expansion.2 Construction on the first of seven lines of the JLR is complete and when it opens next year will facilitate travel between west Jerusalem and illegal colonies including Pisgat Ze„ev, Neve Ya„akov and Ramot.3 The former head of the Jerusalem Municipality, Uri Lupolianski, referred to construction of the JLR as “the fulfilment of Psalm 122”, a religious reference to the taking of Jerusalem.4

Campaigners have successfully secured the exclusion of Veolia from an impressive array of public sector contracts and pension funds. In January 2009, Veolia lost a €3.5bn contract to operate subways in Stockholm County it had held for ten years.5 Veolia has also lost public contracts, at least partly as a result of its involvement in the JLR, in France, England, Wales, Ireland, Australia and Iran, at a cost totalling billions of Euros.6 Following effective campaigns by human rights activists, Veolia and Alstom have been excluded from major pension funds in the Netherlands, Sweden and Denmark. Last month, Veolia signed a principled agreement to sell its shares in the CityPass consortium that operates the JLR project to the Israeli transportation cooperative Egged, and Alstom was reported to be in “advanced stages of negotiations” to sell its CityPass shares to the Israel Infrastructure Fund.7 These announcements are the result of hard work and dedication of BDS activists all over the world – a Veolia spokesperson recently admitted that the BDS movement had cost the company “important contracts”.8 The BNC warmly salutes all those involved in the Derail Veolia and Alstom campaign.

The campaign has reached an important milestone, but pressure must be increased to ensure that these companies truly end their involvement in the JLR and in all other Israeli projects that violate international law. Veolia has agreed to sell its shares over a five year period.9 Not only will it receive €9m for its shares, but Veolia will continue to operate a system designed to dispossess Palestinians throughout this period and it is easily conceivable that the deal will break down during the sale process. There is yet to be a pubic confirmation that Alstom will sell its CityPass shares. More importantly, selling their respective shares in the project does not absolve Veolia and Alstom of their legal, moral and political responsibility for providing reparations to the Palestinian victims of the JLR or of their ongoing complicity in other Israeli projects that contravene international law. The carriages that Alstom have supplied will continue to transport Israeli settlers to their illegal colonies; the illegal JLR system will continue to operate and expand using the logistical arrangements provided by Veolia. The pressure on Veolia and Alstom must increase and be maintained in order that they be forced to admit responsibility for their actions and be held accountable, accordingly. In the case of Veolia, the campaign must continue against it at least until it ends its other forms of complicity with violations of international law, including the landfill it operates in the occupied Jordan Valley, using captured Palestinian natural and land resources for the needs of Israeli settlements10 and the racist settler-only bus services it runs inside Occupied Palestinian Territory.11

That two international corporations with multi-billion Euro turnovers have been forced to withdraw from a project that they have funnelled considerable resources into defending is an important signal of the strength and moral weight of the BDS movement. The fact that both Veolia and Alstom are being replaced by Israeli companies rather than more experienced international companies, who surely would have been preferable replacements in the eyes of the Israeli authorities, indicates that no international companies are willing to become targets of our highly effective and visible movement. Let us extend the Derail Veolia and Alstom campaign and continue to send a clear message that people of conscience all over the world will not stand by while corporations aid and abet Israeli war crimes.

4 Civic Coalition for Defending Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem & Stop the Wall Campaign „“Fulfilling Herzl„s Dream”: the Light Rail in Jerusalem and Alstom„s Involvement„, at 5

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