Basques tell train maker to withdraw from Israel’s apartheid railway

A large group of people holds a banner

Campaigners in the Basque Country are determined to end the role of train maker CAF in Israel’s Jerusalem light rail which links illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian land.

BDS Euskal Herria

More than 70 political parties, trade unions and other groups in the Basque Country have signed a statement demanding that train maker CAF withdraw from a massive Israeli colonization project in the occupied West Bank.

Based in the Basque Country, an autonomous region of Spain, CAF is a member of the consortium picked by Israel to expand the Jerusalem light rail.

The groups say that the railway “entrenches Israeli apartheid” and demand that CAF “comply with international law, withdraw from the Jerusalem tram project and thus end complicity in the occupation of Palestine.”

The $2 billion expansion project is an essential part of Israel’s effort to consolidate its grip on its colonial settlements around Jerusalem and is viewed by Palestinians as a symbol of their occupation and oppression.

The construction of settlements in occupied territory is a war crime.

The International Criminal Court prosecutor’s office recently recommended a formal investigation of Israel’s alleged war crimes, including the settlements.

During the bidding for the railway expansion, major international firms withdrew from the process amid mounting criticism that they would be aiding and abetting Israel’s international crimes.

They include Canada’s Bombardier, Australia’s Macquarie and Germany’s Siemens.

France’s Alstom also pulled out after concluding that involvement in the settler railway would harm human rights and be illegal.

In 2015, French infrastructure firm Veolia was also forced to end its long-standing role in the settler railway after a sustained international campaign.

But CAF, along with its Israeli partner construction firm Shapir, stayed in the race and won the contract to extend the project.

Shapir is on the recently released UN database of companies complicit in Israel’s illegal colonization of Palestinian land.

Notably, CAF’s workers have consistently opposed involvement in the project.

In October, CAF’s workers council reaffirmed its previous call on the firm to withdraw.

Seven trade unions have joined the wide array of parties and social and environmental justice groups backing the demand for CAF to quit.

“The fact that over 70 very diverse civil society organizations have signed our statement shows just how strong the consensus is in the Basque Country that CAF must end its complicity in Israel’s war crimes in the occupied Palestinian territory,” said Ester Muñoz from the coalition CAF: Get off Israel’s Apartheid Train.

“We will not stop until CAF gets off Israel’s apartheid train.”

Spain has regularly condemned Israeli settlements, calling them “illegal under international law.”

In January, Spain’s Socialist Workers Party formed a ruling coalition with the left-wing Podemos.

The new government must go beyond formulaic condemnation of Israel’s crimes by taking real action. Insisting that CAF withdraw from the Jerusalem light rail project would send the right signal.

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Ali Abunimah

Co-founder of The Electronic Intifada and author of The Battle for Justice in Palestine, now out from Haymarket Books.

Also wrote One Country: A Bold-Proposal to End the Israeli-Palestinian Impasse. Opinions are mine alone.