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2010 Boycott roundup: French companies to drop out of Jerusalem rail project

2010 Boycott roundup: French companies to drop out of Jerusalem rail project

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Published by: BDS-Kampagne on Dec 10, 2010
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 Boycott roundup: French companies to drop out of Jerusalem rail projectReport,
The Electronic Intifada,
3 December 2010Veolia has stated it will withdraw its involvement with the light rail projectin occupied East Jerusalem. (Anne Paq/ ActiveStills)In a significant victory for the global Palestinian-led boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS)movement, French companies Veolia and Alstom have dropped out of the Jerusalem light railproject due to sustained pressure from Palestine solidarity groups. The companies werecontracted by the Israeli government to construct and manage the tramway linking Jerusalemto several illegal Israeli settlement colonies in the occupied West Bank.The Associated Press reported on 28 November that Yoni Yitzhak, the spokesperson forVeolia Israel, "denied the company had succumbed to political pressures," saying that "[a]lldecisions by Veolia Israel are based on financial, not political, considerations ("French firmdrops out of Israeli light rail project," 28 November 2010).However, a spokesperson for Dan bus lines, an Israeli company that hoped to secure thecontract after Veolia dropped out, said that Veolia had told Dan executives that the companyhad decided to end its involvement in the Jerusalem light rail project specifically because of the mounting BDS campaigns and political pressure, according to the Associated Press report.Speaking at the recent London session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, The ElectronicIntifada contributor Adri Nieuwhof testified against Veolia for its involvement in profitingfrom the illegal settlement industry. Nieuwhof is a human rights advocate whose writingfocuses on corporate complicity in violations of international law, includingVeolia's role inthe project. The jury subsequently included Veolia in a list of seven corporationsit identified with "corporate complicity in Israeli violations of international law."The Jerusalem light rail project was designed to accommodate 200,000 Israeli settlerstraveling between West Jerusalem and colonies in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem,such as Pisgat Zeev, Neve Yaakov and Ramot.1
According to a statement by the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions NationalCommittee (BNC) on 25 November, campaigners are marking this move by Veolia andAlstom as an important activism milestone. The BNC also emphasized that "pressure must beincreased to ensure that these companies truly end their involvement in the Jerusalem lightrail and in all other Israeli projects that violate international law" ("Veolia and Alstom feel theheat - BNC calls for intensifying pressure!," 25 November 2010).The BNC added "Veolia has agreed to sell its shares over a five year period. Not only will itreceive [euro] 9 million [US $11.9 million] for its shares, but Veolia will continue to operate asystem designed to dispossess Palestinians throughout this period and it is easily conceivablethat the deal will break down during the sale process."Selling their shares, stated the BNC, does not absolve Veolia nor Alstom of their "legal, moraland political responsibility" toward Palestinians who will continue to suffer injustices becauseof the rail project, or of their "ongoing complicity in other Israeli projects that contraveneinternational law."According to the BNC, campaigners across the globe "successfully secured the exclusion of Veolia from an impressive array of public sector contracts and pension funds." The BNC citedseveral instances of Veolia's loss of billions of dollars worth of public contracts in severalcountries in Europe, and in Australia and Iran, following effective campaigns by human rightsactivists.
 In related news, the BNC also called on the French government to "immediately cease allundemocratic, repressive measures against its own conscientious citizens who promote orengage in nonviolent boycotts, divestment and sanctions campaigns against Israel until itcomplies with international law" ("Palestinian civil society reaffirms support for persecutedFrench activists," 23 November 2010).The statement follows waves of repressive action by the French government against Palestinesolidarity activists working within the growing BDS movement. On 14 October, the BNCreported that a French court dismissed charges of incitement to "discrimination, hatred orviolence" brought against Senator Alima Boumediene-Thiery and prominent activist OmarSlaouti, both of whom participated in boycott-related direct actions. "However, a [euro] 1,000[US $1,300] fine against campaigner Sakina Arnaud for attaching a 'Boycott Israel' sticker toa fruit juice carton was upheld the following week," the BNC stated.Earlier this week, at least a dozen French BDS activists will appear in court to face similarcharges, and other trials will take place over the course of the next year, according to theBNC.These charges were brought against the French activists by pro-Israel lobby groups. "The self-styled Bureau National de Vigilance Contre l'Antisemitisme [National Bureau for VigilanceAgainst Anti-Semitism] and other pro-Israel groups claim to have filed over eightycomplaints," the BNC added. "According to activists, police regularly demand the names andaddresses of those present at BDS demonstrations."
Boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigners in Ireland welcomed a unanimous vote by theTechnical Engineering and Electrical Union (TEEU) to support a comprehensive boycottcampaign of Israeli goods and services and "a policy of disinvestment from Israelicompanies" as a result of Israel's ongoing violations of international law and human rightsagainst the Palestinian people.In a 24 November press release from the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC),campaigners say TEEU's management welcomed the motion, which was submitted to theunion's Executive Management Committee the weekend before ("Another BDS victory:TEEU votes to Boycott Israel," 24 November 2010).Upon the passage of the motion, one union delegate remarked "The global trade unionmovement has consistently demonstrated its commitment to Palestinian rights by adoptinglabor-led sanctions as a form of effective solidarity with Palestinians. The TEEU should beproud to stand shoulder to shoulder with our Palestinian trade union brothers and sisters, thosebrave Israelis -- Jewish and Arab -- who promote BDS, and those trade unions from Britain,to Belgium, to Canada to South Africa and beyond that have taken the principled decision tosupport BDS."Also in Ireland, members of the Dublin Food Co-Op voted overwhelmingly to boycott Israeli-made products during a special general meeting on 25 November. The IPSC stated that thiswas the third attempt in two years to authorize a boycott of Israeli goods, but after adetermined campaign by BDS activists, the motion passed by a 50-6 vote ("Dublin Food Co-Op passes Israeli boycott motion," 26 November 2010).In the motion proposal, BDS campaigners called for a boycott of all Israeli products until thestate of Israel agrees "to allow humanitarian aid and unarmed peace activists entry intoPalestine without the threat of violence and death from Israeli armed forces," and "agrees tohonor United Nations resolutions regarding the unlawful occupation of Palestine in the so-called Israeli 'settlements.'"
United Kingdom
 Thousands of customers of British Telecom (BT) have signed onto a campaign led by acoalition of Palestine solidarity groups calling for an end to the company's ties with Israelitelecommunications corporation Bezeq International. People who joined the Disconnect Nowcampaign have emailed BT asking for "an end to the company's complicity in illegal Israelisettlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories," according to a press release fromDisconnect Now coalition member group Just Peace for Palestine ("Thousands write to BTabout complicity in Israeli occupation," 24 November 2010).In January 2010, said the press release, BT welcomed Israeli company Bezeq International, asubsidiary of Bezeq Israel, into its Global Alliance. The Bezeq corporation providestelecommunication services to illegal Israeli settlement colonies in the West Bank, includingEast Jerusalem."Members of the public who contacted BT via email have received a standard reply that whilefailing to address the main issue of the settlements and human rights, mentions thatPalestinian telecommunications company Paltel has an arrangement with Bezeq," stated thepress release. "But in an official statement, Paltel have explained that 'the Palestiniantelecommunications sector is a captive sector in its own market and is forced into having3

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