In the dock on Israel The Guardian, Saturday 20 November 2010
So Israel vows to keep building homes in illegally occupied East Jerusalem (Report, 19 November). Today the British security corporationG4S and the French company Veolia, which collects waste for UK local authorities and universities, will stand accused of complicity in Israeli human rights violations. Israeli academic Dalit Baum will give evidence in London to a tribunal on Palestine that G4S is aiding her country's war crimes by providing equipment for checkpoints, prisons and illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank. Moreover, Adri Neiuwhof, a Swiss-based expert on public contract regulations, will cite Veolia's profits from the occupation as a partner in the Jerusalem light rail project that links west Jerusalem to settlements.
The tribunal, named after the philosopher Bertrand Russell, will hear from witnesses from Israel, Palestine, Britain, the US and mainland Europe, who will testify before a jury including UK barristers Anthony Gifford QC, and Michael Mansfield QC. Whatever the jury's verdict on Monday, world leaders must act to ensure a just peace in the region.
Stephane Hessel, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Ken Loach, Mark Thomas, Jeremy Irons, Alice Walker, John Berger, Juliet Stevenson, John Pilger, Miriam Margolyes, Ilan Pappe, Saffron Burrows, Paul Laverty, Colin Salmon, Ghada Karmi, Karma Nabulsi
Shortcut Through the West Bank
German Rail Under Fire for Controversial Israeli Project
By Juliane von Mittelstaedt
Peace activists have strongly criticized a planned high-speed rail line in Israel that will cut through the West Bank and deprive Palestinian communities of land. A subsidiary of Germany's national rail operator apparently helped plan the line, and critics claim they must have known about the controversial route.
Germany's state-owned national rail operator Deutsche Bahn is a world leader in railway technology, and other countries often call on German expertise when planning their networks. But the involvement of a Deutsche Bahn subsidiary in a controversial planned high-speed line in Israel, which cuts through the occupied West Bank, could prove embarrassing for the company.
The high-speed rail link is set to connect Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, reducing travel time between the two cities to just 28 minutes. The planned route would solve one of the country's biggest transport problems: The current stretch takes 90 minutes and is little used, while highways between the cities often experience massive traffic problems.
Two sections of the line, totalling 6 kilometers (3.75 miles) in length, pass through the West Bank. Much of that stretch will run through tunnels, but Israeli peace activists argue that the route violates international law as Israel will be taking Palestinian land for tunnel portals and access roads.
"By crossing the … border into the West Bank, the … train line is unlawful and unethical," argues the Coalition of Women for Peace, a group of Israeli feminist peace organizations which has compiled a report on the project. The coalition argues that international law states that an occupier may not use occupied resources solely for the benefit of its own citizens. "This line was planned for the exclusive use of Israeli citizens; it is imposed on the local Palestinian residents by the dictates of a military regime, in which they have no representation; and it would be completely inaccessible to the local residents," the report argues.
Deutsche Bahn Subsidiary Provided Support
The coalition has called on the European companies that have been involved in the planning and construction of the route -- including Deutsche Bahn subsidiary DB International (DBI) -- to pull out of the project.
DBI denies involvement in planning the high-speed route, however. DBI spokesman Bernd Weiler told SPIEGEL that the company could not rule out the possibility that German expertise might be used for all of Israel's rail lines -- including the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem route -- as DBI had provided general consulting services for Israel Railways, the state-owned national rail company.
A report that has been seen by SPIEGEL provides evidence of concrete support from DBI for the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem route, however. DBI's predecessor, DE-Consult, prepared several studies for the project on behalf of Israel Railways, including a travel-time comparison of the route through the West Bank with the stretch that was originally proposed, which kept to Israeli territory. The report's conclusion was that, in terms of travel time, the alternative route through the West Bank was just as suitable as the original plan.
"They had the complete maps in order to make these calculations," Dalit Baum of the Coalition of Women for Peace told SPIEGEL. "It is impossible that DBI does not know that the route runs through occupied territory." DBI was also involved in the electrification of the line, Baum said. The Austrian company Alpine Bau, which had been contracted to do the tunneling, had chosen to back out of the project before construction started, according to the organization's report.
Fears of Losing Land
Residents of the Palestinian villages of Beit Surik and Beit Iksa in the West Bank are particularly concerned about the project. The route runs close to their communities, and locals fear that their fields will be destroyed due to the construction of bridges and tunnels. They also speculate that Israel might later deny them access to the area for security reasons. "The 6 kilometers of the railway route which fall outside the official Israeli state borders are creating devastating effects on the … Palestinian communities in the area," writes the Coalition of Women for Peace.
Beit Surik has already lost 30 percent of its land through the construction of the Israeli security barrier in the West Bank, which is partially built on Palestinian territory, while Beit Iksa has lost 60 percent of its land as a result. The communities will not, however, benefit from the new train line, as no stations are planned in their villages. The planned train line passes along the Israeli side of the security barrier.
The initial version of the plans foresaw the route passing closer to the Jerusalem suburb of Mevasseret Zion, which would have meant the line staying well within Israeli territory. Local residents protested against the plans, however, claiming that the train line would have blighted their views and brought down property prices. "It was easier for the planners to move the railway line than to negotiate a compromise with the Israeli citizens," says Baum.
The route looks set to become another bone of contention between Israel and the Palestinians. The Palestinian Authority will "resort to all legal and possible diplomatic methods to try to end this violation of Palestinian rights," spokesman Ghassan Khatib recently told the Associated Press. He urged foreign companies to pull out of the project.
The Israeli government insists that the route will in the future also benefit Palestinians, saying that planning has begun on an extension that would connect the West Bank city of Ramallah with the Gaza Strip. The Coalition of Women for Peace describes that argument as a "cynical ploy" to justify the project.
Israeli policy 'comparable to Empire racism'
Israel not different from historical US and British colonialism, Russell Tribunal told
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
20 November 2010
Pulitzer prize-winning writer Alice Walker today compared Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians with the historical racism of the British Empire.
She launched her scathing attack on the Israeli government in a
statement to the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, a special inquiry into Israeli war crimes taking place in London this weekend. The focus of the London session is the complicity of British and international corporations in Israeli human rights violations.
She said: “What has happened to them [the Palestinians] has happened to countless others, including my own tribes – African, Native American, poor European immigrant.”
Hugh Lanning, deputy general secretary of the PCS union, told the tribunal in his testimony that the TUC would continue its campaign against firms guilty of complicity, and produce a “short list” of the worst offending companies early next year.
Lanning said potential targets included Israeli company Carmel-Agrexco (which sells produce in British supermarkets from illegal Israeli settlements) and Veolia, which collects household waste in Britain and is involved in “racist” transport policies in the occupied West Bank.
Israeli academic Dalit Baum from the group Who Profits? said many Palestinians, compelled through poverty to work on illegal Israeli settlements, were paid less than the minimum Israeli wage.
In a video statement, Palestinian farmers’ union coordinator Fayez al Taneeb showed maps that compared remaining Palestinian land in the West Bank with the Bantustans under South Africa’s apartheid regime. He pointed out that land under Palestinian control now amounted to 12 per cent of historical Palestine, while the Bantustans of the apartheid era had amounted to 13 per cent of South Africa.
Health problems had forced Walker to withdraw from the Russell
Tribunal’s jury that is hearing evidence from around 30 expert
The first day of the tribunal continues until 6.30 today. The second and final day starts 9.15am tomorrow at 113 Chancery Lane London WC2A 1PL.
The tribunal is also being broadcast live over the internet on our
website (address below). Video from today is also available on the website.
The jury will give its verdict in a press conference at 10.30 am on
Monday (22 November) at the Amnesty International Human Rights Centre, 17-25 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EA.
'Solicitors' group accused of hosting 'Kangaroo court'