After several years’ worth of pressure by boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) activists worldwide, French transportation multinational Alstom has officially lost a significant contract bid with the Saudi Haramain Railway Project in Saudi Arabia. Alstom and Veolia, another French urban systems corporation, are involved with the illegal Jerusalem Light Rail project that links West Jerusalem with settlement colonies in the occupied West Bank, and boycott activists have been campaigning heavily across Europe and in Saudi Arabia to encourage governments to cut contracts with Alstom and Veolia, and award bids to other companies.
This comes on the heels of Veolia’s loss of more than $10 billion due to severed contracts in Europe, after BDS activists launched strategic campaigns targeting local governments who contracted with the corporation.
The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) released a press statement today on the BDS victory:
The BDS National Committee (BNC) has declared a long sought-after victory as Alstom lost the bid for the second phase of the Saudi Haramain Railway project, worth $10 billion US dollars, after pressure from the global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign, including effective campaigning from the newly launched KARAMA, a European campaign to Keep Alstom Rail And Metro Away.
In 2008 the BNC, the largest Palestinian civil society coalition, with partners in Europe and Israel, launched the Derail Veolia and Alstom campaign, due to the two companies’ involvement in Israel’s illegal Jerusalem Light Rail (JLR) project, which explicitly aims to “Judaize Jerusalem,” according to official Israeli statements, by cementing Israel’s hold on the illegal colonial settlements built on occupied Palestinian land in and around Jerusalem. Since then, Veolia has lost more than $12B worth of contracts following boycott activism in Sweden, the UK, Ireland and elsewhere. Alstom, too, suffered substantial blows when the Swedish national pension fund AP7 excluded it from its investment portfolio, after having been excluded from the Dutch ASN Bank due to the company’s involvement in Israel’s occupation of Palestinian land, and has recently announced its intention to withdraw from the project.
The decision is in line with a decision adopted by consensus at the Arab Summit held in Khartoum in 2006 which condemned in the JLR project and called on “the two French companies [Alstom and Veolia] to immediately withdraw from the project,” and demanding that punitive measures be taken against them “if they don’t comply.” The Arab Summit also urged the French government to take the necessary measure in this respect to honor its obligations under international law. In March 2010, the UN’s Human Rights Council denounced Israel’s JLR project for being “in clear violation of international law and relevant United Nations resolutions.”
In commenting on the fierce competition between the Alstom-led consortium and its Spanish-led rival over the second phase of the lucrative Haramain Railway project, Emirati newspaper, Al-Ittihad, referred to “multiple factors” affecting the decision to award the contract, suggesting that political factors may have been taken into consideration.
The BNC and several partners have used private and public channels to urge the Saudi leadership to exclude Alstom from the second phase of this large project which will connect by rail Mecca with Medina after Alstom had won the much smaller contract for the first phase.
In 2009, BNC member organizations, Stop the Wall and the Civic Coalition to Defend Palestinians’ Rights in Jerusalem, have produced in-depth research about Alstom’s involvement in Israel’s illegal JLR project. Copies were sent to Saudi officials, prompting Palestinian leaders to address Saudi authorities urging them to exclude Alstom from their contracts.
Jamal Juma’a, Stop the Wall coordinator and BNC Secretariat member commented on the news saying: “This huge victory will be celebrated in the BDS campaign worldwide. We are hopeful that this will be the first of many decisions to kick Alstom out of the Arab world and beyond, sharply raising the price of its collusion in Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.”
“The campaign to derail Veolia and Alstom will continue until they have ended their complicity with Israeli apartheid, and have paid reparations for the damage their actions have caused.”
“The global Derail Veolia and Alstom campaign has sent a strong message to corporations aiding Israel’s violations of international law: the price of their complicity will be extremely high.”
“We are deeply grateful to all our global BDS partners who made this happen through three years of diligent and effective campaigning.”