Light rail in Israel | The Spanish multinational that builds the tram in occupied Jerusalem defends itself against Industry

Light rail in Israel |  The Spanish multinational that builds the tram in occupied Jerusalem defends itself against Industry

2023-06-05 11:23:33

The Spanish railway giant CAF has commissioned a report to assess its controversial light rail project in Israel. A project of 1,000 million euros (500, for CAF) that includes stops in the illegal Israeli colonies in Palestinian territory. However, in the “independent social impact report” paid by the Spanish multinational and delivered to the Ministry of Industry It is concluded that “CAF’s activities in East Jerusalem do not suggest a scenario of failure of its human rights due diligence systems”. Organizations that defend the Palestinians disagree. Amnesty International has published this Thursday a note entitled: “CAF’s tram in Jerusalem: next stop, apartheid” in which it ensures that “the construction company becomes a participant -and beneficiary- of the occupation”. In 2017, the UN Human Rights Council declared the project illegal, since it violates several of its resolutions. Other international railway companies ruled out applying for the project, according to Amnesty International. “CAF not only decided to go ahead, but has also submitted to new tenders for two new lines in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.”

Israel occupies and militarily colonizes territory internationally recognized as Palestinian. The tram project has been described as illegal by the United Nations Human Rights Council itself. The Committee of Solidarity with the Arab Cause (CSCA) recalls, for its part, that the routes of the tram lines, designed exclusively by the Israeli authorities, have been carried out with demolitions and forced expropriations and that the train consolidates an occupation that International Humanitarian Law considers illegal.

In the west bank palestine live more than 700,000 Israeli settlers in hundreds of settlements scattered throughout the territory, defended by a huge separation wall and a strong military presence. Israel controls the bulk of the territory of Palestine: it keeps Gaza closed and isolated by land, sea and air and carries out expropriation policies in East Jerusalem, the third territory that makes up Palestine.

CAF is a multinational company headquartered in Beasain (Guipuzcoa) that is listed on the stock market and billed in 2022 more than 3,000 million euros. Next June 10 it celebrates its shareholders meeting. The company’s report responds to a request from the Ministry of Industry, which in turn was dealing with a complaint from CSCA. In a note from the National Contact Point, which was forwarded by this newspaper, the Government gave the company a period of one year (until this month of May) to present an independent report on the situation of the light rail.

The document presented by the company at the Ministry, and to which EL PERIÓDICO DE ESPAÑA, from the group Iberian pressanalysis at relevant international law on the Israeli military occupation (among others, the Geneva Convention, the Vienna Human Rights Convention or the guidelines of the OECD for multinationals). The consultant author of the report, from the Responsible Business company, also visited part of CAF’s facilities in Jerusalem for two days and traveled on one of the already built tram lines. He interviewed four employees, including two Palestinians, although he acknowledges that “the hierarchical superiors remained in the meeting room the whole time.”

“From CAF No further assessments will be made or further details will be given on the matter.”, the company has responded to this newspaper’s request for information and comment, in addition to pointing to the Sustainability Report for the year 2022. It includes a generic reference to the complaints received at the National Contact Point of the Ministry of Industry about a project “developed in Jerusalem”, without specifying that the problem is the sections in East Jerusalem and the illegal settlements.

Infrastructures that consolidate employment

The text admits that International Humanitarian Law (specifically, Article 49 of the Geneva Convention) does not allow “infrastructures to be used for the displacement and settlement of settlers.” However, it considers that in the case of the tram this does not apply because “Almost all the settlements are prior to the construction of this infrastructure” and because it is “proximity urban transport” and not “a railway infrastructure that unites more or less distant territories and facilitates the transfer of the population” to alter the demography of the area. The disputed lines actually connect legally Israeli areas with others that are considered colonies or settlements by the United Nations, the United States and the European Union, among others.

Another of the report’s arguments is that the tram provides a necessary public service and that it does so without discriminating based on ethnicity or religion, since Palestinians can use it and both the public address system and the posters are in Hebrew (large), in Arabic and in English. Actually, getting to East Jerusalem where part of the tram operates is very difficult for Palestinians from West Bank towns close to the city, through checkpoints. The Israeli occupation issues different colored ID cards to Palestinians depending on whether they are from GazaWest Bank or East Jerusalem.

The text ensures that the impact of the project is positive for the local population, and details a conversation with Palestinians who ensure that the proximity of the tramway has allowed the development of their small businesses.

Partners on the United Nations blacklist

The Committee of Solidarity with the Arab Cause, which initiated the complaint with the Ministry in 2019, disagrees with both the spirit and the letter of the report. They highlight that CAF’s local partner to raise the trams is the Israeli company Shapir, which is on the United Nations Human Rights Council list of companies that contribute to and profit from violations of the rights of the Palestinian population. Amnesty International has asked the United Nations to include CAF on that list, precisely because of its participation in this project.

CAF defends itself by assuring that, when in 2019 it won the contest together with Shapir, the Israeli company was not yet on that list, from 2020. The CSCA assures that CAF did not in any case carry out due diligence with its partner for the multimillion-dollar project, and that Shapir already had quarries and exploitations in the Occupied Territories, in addition to building houses and basic infrastructure in the colonies. Highlight that CAF Israel continues to strengthen ties with the occupationno. Use two banks, Hapoalim and First International Bank of Israel, which are also part of the list of companies that profit from the occupation of United Nations. And the last anniversary party of his held at an illegal Dead Sea settlement, Kalia Beach. They point out that CAF has a bus division, Solaris, which has recently sold 120 buses to the Israeli company Egged. This company is also on the United Nations list, since it is the one that makes the journeys between the colonies.

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