In a significant victory in the international campaign against the Connex built illegal tramline in occupied Jerusalem, Connex has been forced to cancel plans to train Israeli engineers and drivers on Dublinâs Luas light railway.
Connex, which operates under the name Veolia in Ireland, has been operating the Luas system since 2004, and it is likely that the tramline under construction between the colonies in Jerusalem is very similar. For this reason, representatives from Israel had been in negotiations with Veolia Ireland to have Israeli engineers and drivers trained on the Dublin Luas, with a view to them operating the illegal tramline in Jerusalem. The training was due to begin in September, and a contract was being finalised.
Due to sustained pressure from Irish Palestinian Solidarity activists working together with Irish trade union representatives Veolia has been forced to cancel the proposed contract with its Israeli counterpart, Citypass. French based Connex and Alstom are the international investors in the Citypass consortium that won a 500 million Euro tender put out by the Israeli authorities in 2002 for a light rail transport system in Jerusalem. The path of the light railway incorporates a number of illegal Occupation settlements such as Pisgat Ze’ev, French Hill, Neve Ya’akov and Gilo, ensuring the contiguity of these colonies with the central areas of the city. The project boasts that the âAmmunition Hillâ station of the network will operate as the feeder station for the settlement of Maâaleh Adumim and the Jordan valley. The financial backing of the French companies for the project contradicts international law including the 4th Geneva Convention which recognizes the illegality of the Zionistâs regimeâs settlements.
According to a recent Jerusalem Post report a âdepotâ has already been established at the French Hills intersection, over a quarter of the materials used in laying the tracks have been delivered as has the âEppitrackâ, a heavy vehicle especially designed for the laying of tracks. The first tracks are expected to be laid in early 2007.
An IPSC (Irish Palestinian Solidarity Campaign) spokesperson stated: “This is a small but significant victory for the Palestinian right to self-determination. This tramline, like the Apartheid Wall, is an integral component of Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem. You would expect a tramline to be fairly innocuous, but the lesson is no: when you do business with Israel, you invariably do business with the Occupation. Veolia clearly understand that there is a growing awareness of this within Irish society. People are realising that diplomacy has utterly failed to curb Israeli crimes. We must cut ties with Israel in order to force it to end its Occupation”.
The spokesperson called on the Irish authorities to comply with their responsibilities under international law: “Veolia’s position, however, is extraordinary. In cancelling this contract, Veolia acknowledge that the Israeli line is illegal and unsupportable. Yet it is they who are building it! The hypocrisy is inexcusable, and their attempts to deny that they bowed to pressure are laughable. Since the Minister for Transport and the Railway Procurement Agency have ultimate control over who runs the Luas, the IPSC now calls on Martin Cullen and the RPA to cancel Veolia’s contract unless they cease building this illegal tramline on occupied Palestinian territory.”
The IPSC had initially learned that a delegation from Israel was in Dublin last month to inspect the Luas. Subsequently, it has emerged that Veolia have hosted three Israeli visits to Dublin in the last eighteen months. The IPSC will ensure that there will be no further cooperation between the Dublin Luas and the Jerusalem tram, and vows to step up its campaign for the Irish government to cancel Veolia’s contract. However, the IPSC also stresses that they were completely unaware of the previous two visits from Israel.
All Palestinian solidarity campaigns in countries where Connex or the Veolia Group operates are urged to contact the relevant unions and determine whether any support or assistance is being given to the Israeli tramline. The Israeli engineers and drivers have to get training from somewhere if they are to begin operating this line in illegally occupied East Jerusalem. If human rights groups and Palestinian solidarity campaigns can ensure that no country will train Israeli engineers and drivers, then perhaps we can help to “derail” this criminal project entirely.
In March this year around 40 Swiss activists from Collectif Urgence Palestine took direct action against Connex by blocking a Connex shuttle bus at a car exhibition in Geneva. They occupied the âDupraz Bus-Connexâ and displayed banners to highlight the âTramway of Apartheidâ.
Connex is part of the Veolia group which has significant investments in privatised services in 24 countries with around 56,000 employees. Alstom is a smaller player with about 28,000 employees and is a major player in the production of trains and rolling stock.