For background on the issue, this is from a recent Press release from the Italian Coalition Stop That Train:
On 30 November, the City Council of Rho, in the province of Milan, approved a resolution expressing “moral and political condemnation of Pizzarotti & C. S.p.A. for its participation in the project for the construction of the A1 Jerusalem – Tel Aviv railway”.
Pizzarotti is a contractor for the Israeli project for the new A1 high-speed railway that will connect Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The new railway cuts through the occupied Palestinian territories for 6.5 km in clear violation of international law and human rights, including illegal Israeli confiscation of Palestinian land in the villages of Beit Iksa and Beit Sourik. In addition, the logistics center and road network for the massive tunnel boring machines and the transport of material from the tunnels excavated by Pizzarotti are causing the destruction of ancient olive groves and agricultural land recognized by the Israeli Supreme Court as a “fundamental resource for subsistence” for the communities. Art. 53 of the Fourth Geneva Convention prohibits the occupying power from destroying real or personal property except in cases of absolute military necessity.
The municipal council of Beit Surik, a village in the Jerusalem district of the West Bank, wrote the following letter to thank the City Council of Rho for their solidarity:
December 11 2011
To whom it may concern,
AS municipal council of Beit Surik we are writing to express our deep gratitude to the decision of the municipal council of Rho to morally and politically condemn the Italian company Pizzarotti for their continued involvement in the Israeli A1 train project.
We declare our objection to the proposed route of the Jerusalem – Tel Aviv train line, which passes through land belonging to the village of Beit Surik, in the district of Jerusalem in the West Bank.
The proposed route of the train line passes through agricultural land that even the Supreme Court of Israel ruled necessary to be preserved as part of Beit Surik for the wellbeing of the village population as part of a ruling regarding the construction of the Apartheid Wall on our land.
This train line will bring inconvenience and suffering to the village in terms of the lost land and in noise pollution, without any benefits, as the train is to connect areas that village resisdents with West Bank ID cards are not allowed to enter.
Beit Surik was successful in challenging the route of the apartheid wall that surrounds the village, when the Supreme Court of Israel “ordered that the route of sections of a wall in the area of Judea and Samaria (“the West Bank”) be changed in order to avoid unnecessary hardship to the local Palestinian population.” (https://www.unhcr.org/refworld/country,,ISR_SC,,ISR,,4374ac594,0.html)
The village nonetheless lost 3000 dunams of land through the construction of the wall. The proposed train line threatens to take away 3000 dunams more.
We understand that people of the Israeli settlement Mevaseret Zion appealed in 2005 to distance the planned route from their habitation due to noise pollution. It is unacceptable that this railway is planned on the land recovered by the village. This stands as a direct challenge to that court ruling.
Moreover, under International Law, the Israeli state has no right to determine the use of land of the occupied Palestinian territory of the West Bank. This proposal seems intended as a broader demonstration that despite the ruling of Israeli courts, the Israeli government will nonetheless flaunt both international and its own laws to colonize Palestinian land as part of the Zionist project.
We urge that this proposal be modified. The train line should be constructed on land that has already been appropriated from West Bank villages, now lying on the Israeli side of the Green Line as the service is exclusively for Israeli use and benefit. We, the people of Beit Surik, do not want the rail line to be built on our land. We see this of fundamental significance for the people of the world to support our right to decide on the use of our own land and we appeal to all to help us to stop this train.
Beit Surik, occupied Palestine
The Palestinian Grassroots Anti-apartheid Wall Campaign (Stop the Wall) also wrote a letter to express their gratitude to Rho’s City Council.
The letter can be dowloaded here.
Occupied Palestine, December 16 2011
As Stop the Wall we thank the municipal council of Rho for the passing of its motion that morally and politically condemns the Italian company Pizzarotti for their participation in the construction of the Israeli A1 train line and highlights that Pizzarotti has clearly committed sufficiently grave errors in the conduct of their professional activity so as to justify the exclusion from public tenders.
Since its inception in 2002, the Stop the Wall Campaign has been the main national grassroots body mobilizing and organizing the collective efforts against the Wall. It is the coordination body for dozens of popular committees in the villages affected by the Wall, including in Beit Surik, 13 Palestinian NGOs and Palestinian progressive political forces.
Steps such as yours are an important support in our efforts to hold Israeli and international companies accountable for their complicity in Israeli violations of international law and human rights.
The case of the A1 train and the involvement of international companies in Israeli war crimes is just one of many. The Israeli political project is based on construction projects and infrastructure being built on the ground that steal land, destroy property and livelihoods and literally encircle Palestinian residential areas with roads, walls, checkpoints and settlements. Some 50 percent of Palestinian land will be inaccessible to Palestinians through such infrastructure projects (including the Wall, the settlements, roads, rails and checkpoints) and so-called “natural reserves” and military closed zones.
On July 9 2004, the International Court of Justice has confirmed the Wall and its associated regime as well as the settlements war crimes under international law as they are in grave breach of the IV Geneva Convention . The A1 train running through Palestinian occupied land is likewise a grave breach against the IV Geneva Convention and to be considered a war crime.
The A1 train is further part of Israeli policies amounting to the crime of apartheid. The Cape Town session of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine (RToP) on November 5-7 2011 has concluded that Israeli practices amount to a breach of the international legal prohibition of apartheid. The RToP concluded that “the evidence has made it plain to the RToP that since 1948 the Israeli authorities have pursued concerted policies of colonisation and appropriation of Palestinian land. Israel has through its laws and practices divided the Israeli Jewish and Palestinian populations and allocated them different physical spaces, with varying levels and quality of infrastructure, services and access to resources. The end result is wholesale territorial fragmentation and a series of separate reserves and enclaves, with the two groups largely segregated” . The A1 train project is an integral part of this Israeli policy.
Based on these legal circumstances, the German government has de facto pressured its state owned company to abandon the project.
Pizzarotti is aware of this, yet continues its involvement for corporate benefit. They uphold the joint venture with Shapir that is contracted to work on construction efforts on both sides of the Green Line. De facto, the expertise of Pizzarotti is essential for the implementation of the A1 train line, i.e. the implementation of a project amounting to a war crime, as there Israeli companies do not have matching expertise in the use of tunnel boring machines as those used by Pizzarotti.
These Israeli infrastructure projects would not be possible without the active support of the international community, international companies, finance institutions and the silence of governments which have so far not taken any effective action to comply with their legal obligation under international law to stop third parties from violating the IV Geneva Convention. In fact, the entire Israeli policy that since 64 years violates the rights of the Palestinian people to self-determination and countless human rights would not be possible without the connivance of the international community.
As Stop the Wall, the Palestinian grassroots campaign against the Wall and the settlements, we deeply appreciate the support of Rho municipality and civil society campaigns such as Stop that Train as the most effective form to hold complicit companies accountable.
They are an essential element in the support of the communities and our efforts to stop the Israeli wall, colonization and occupation of Palestinian land.
We thank you for the support and hope that many other municipalities in Italy and around the world will follow your principled example.
Stop the Wall Campaign