Workers reject Spanish firm’s bid for Israeli settlement project

Last month, the workers council of Spanish train manufacturer CAF voted against participation in the Jerusalem light rail.

The council urged the Basque Country-based company to withdraw from the tender for the expansion of the tramway linking Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank to Jerusalem.

“Any transit project in any city in the world, including Jerusalem, must be built while respecting human rights and international law,” the workers council stated.

“Both the United Nations General Assembly and the Security Council, as well as the International Court of Justice, through different resolutions, have opposed the occupation of the territories through which the tramway will pass.”

The transfer of Israel’s civilian population to settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as to Syria’s Golan Heights, is a war crime under international law.

Today, more than 200,000 settlers live in and around East Jerusalem, and more than 400,000 others live in the rest of the West Bank.

The CAF workers can count on the support of ELA, the most influential trade union in Basque Country.

“It is incomprehensible that the management of CAF is bidding for this tender,” the trade union stated. “CAF’s workers do not deserve to assume the responsibility for carrying out a job rejected by the overwhelming majority of the international community.”

Erroneous media reports in recent weeks stated that CAF itself had refused to take part in the project, but this is not the case.

The company “has not refused to participate in the tender of the Jerusalem tram,” CAF spokesperson Iñaki Escrig informed The Electronic Intifada by email.

Rather, it is the workers council – the legally mandated framework for labor representation – which has rejected participation.

If the company wins the tender, it could be a prelude to action by the trade unions.

Light rail expansion

Last June, companies were invited to bid for the expansion of the Jerusalem light rail, which includes extending the existing Red line and developing a second line, the so-called Green line.

The extension will penetrate deeper into the occupied West Bank, connecting the settlements of Pisgat Zeev and Neve Yaakov, which are part of the ring of colonies Israel is building to isolate Palestinians in Jerusalem from those in the rest of the West Bank.

The second line will run from Mount Scopus in occupied East Jerusalem to the settlement of Gilo, southwest of Jerusalem.

A consortium of the Israeli company Shapir Engineering and the Spanish train manufacturer CAF is reportedly shortlisted to develop the second line.

Competing consortia include the Canadian engineering giant Bombardier, Australia’s Macquarie and Japan’s Hitachi.

The bid must cover the operation costs for at least 15 years and the maintenance costs for 25 years.

CAF’s spokesperson told The Electronic Intifada that it “does not provide information or publish statements on ongoing bids.”

Entrenching settlements

The light rail is part of the 1990 Jerusalem Transportation Master Plan, sponsored by the Israeli government and the occupation authorities running the Jerusalem municipality.

A well-functioning transport system makes living in a settlement even more attractive. The light rail network therefore helps Israel entrench its occupation of the West Bank and the system of apartheid that comes with it.

International human rights organizations and the United Nations have all warned against complicity in Israel’s settlements through trade or business.

“Businesses play a key role in facilitating the overall settlement enterprise, contributing to Israel’s confiscation of land and the transfer of its population through commercial development,” the United Nations human rights office said last year.

That is why CAF should listen to its workers and withdraw its bid to help expand the settler railway on Palestinian land.

1 comment

  1. avatar
    Antonio Carty February 27, 2019 2:17 am 

    Palestine needs Europe and the world’s solidarity in effective ways, so its good to hear a union in my own abuela Beazcochea’s Basque country is trowing a spanner in its company’s attempted collaboration with the internationally condemned Israeli occupation. Its a struggle for conscience.

    Here in Ireland our fraudulent minority ’Government of Ireland’ in perpetuitus, strategically communicating us on our ‘Wild Atlantic Way’, has tried to now spook-spin public opinion against the Irish Seanad’s (Senate) upcoming ‘Occupied Territories Bill’ which was introduced by an independent Senator Francis Black and has now been supported by nearly all the other Senators across Ireland’s parties. Been reported round the world to be historic if it fully passes, its a bill that will begin an actual effective consequence to Israel’s illegal settlements economy.

    But Simon Coveney our Tánaiste (Vice President), comfortable in peaceful Ireland, whose party never supported the bill, thinks we’ll have to drop it now, what with Irish economic worries over Brexit and all, theres a need ‘to support common EU policy’. Of course he does not consider having some integrity and trying to by example help lead EU to a new common policy in support of international law.

    Instead of continuing to throw Palestine under the bus, we should support our Seanad’s Bill, as it continues to pass with a majority of senators and a wide public conscience of support, except from the minority government of Fine Gael’s.

    We could ‘support common EU policy’ attempts to raise 3% on large corporate’s online trade. Fine Gael alone in Europe blocks that common policy even what with Brexit and all? Is it far more important, we continue to make up these missing corporate taxes thru’ public austerity, sensibly soldiering on, leading Europe in a tax race to the bottom? We must support a better funded society thru’ international solidarity and agreement and we must act thru’ this Seanad bill and others to stand up for Palestinian lives, society and justice.

    What is the profit if we can’t afford a conscience?

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