Occupied Palestinian Territory, 16 December 2010 – Israel’s A1 high-speed train project designed to connect Jerusalem and Tel Aviv violates international humanitarian law and human rights law. The A1 rail project forms a component of Israel’s ongoing plans to cement its regime of occupation, colonial rule and apartheid over the Palestinian people, particularly in the occupied West Bank. It constitutes yet another step in the implementation of Israel’s policy of forced population transfer (ethnic cleansing) which has displaced and dispossessed Palestinians, denied refugees their UN-sanctioned right to return and to receive reparations, and prevented the Palestinian people as a whole for over 60 years from exercising its inalienable right to self-determination.
Private business and (partially) state-owned companies are involved in this unlawful rail project. Among those involved are the Israeli firm, Amy Metom Engineers and Consultants, and foreign companies, such as Pizzarotti C.S.p.A., DB International, HBI Haerter, AB Plan, Parsons Brinkerhoff, Deutsche Bahn and Moscow Metrostoy. The involvement of governments and private companies in this project despite its blatant illegality constitutes complicity in Israel’s war crimes and crimes against humanity.
The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), the largest and most representative civil society coalition, calls upon people of conscience and civil society institutions everywhere to engage in BDS campaigns against the state of Israel, as well as Israeli and international corporations involved in and/or profiting from the illegal A1 rail project.
Among its other violations of international law and Palestinian rights, the projected route of the A1 rail runs 6.5km through the occupied West Bank. In blatant violation of its obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel as the occupying power has, without military necessity, expropriated privately owned Palestinian land with the aim of constructing permanent infrastructure, ostensibly to serve the needs of its own civilian population. When completed, the A1 high-speed train will exclusively serve Israeli commuters between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.
The fact that the A1 project is also intended to serve Israel’s long-standing policy of forced population transfer is clearly evident in its route, which will force Palestinians, once more, off their lands. The route is designed to expropriate more Palestinian land from and undermine Palestinian means of subsistence in vulnerable communities that have already been victims of massive dispossession and displacement in the past, in order to make place for Israeli infrastructure that serves the dominant Jewish population. Forced population transfer is defined as the “systematic, coercive and deliberate … movement of population into or out of an area … with the effect or purpose of altering the demographic composition of a territory, particularly when [the motivating] ideology or policy asserts the domination of a certain group over another.”1 It constitutes a war crime and a crime against humanity under international law. Palestinian victims, refugees and displaced persons, are entitled to reparations, including return, restitution of homes and properties and compensation.
The projected route of the A1 rail in the occupied West Bank runs through areas near the 1949 cease-fire line (“green line”) and the Latrun Enclave, where construction of Bridge 6 has already been completed. It affects vulnerable Palestinian communities, including many people who are Palestinian refugees of 1948 or 1967.
The Palestinian villages of Imwas, Yalu and Beit Nuba were completely destroyed and their inhabitants expelled by Israel in 1967. Since then, Israel has prevented the return of the Palestinian villagers by means of military orders. New infrastructure developed by the state and the Jewish National Fund, a key colonizing organization, includes an afforested recreation area called Canada Park, erected on the ruins of these three villages, the Jewish colony of Mevo
Horon, the Wall, and the A1 rail project under construction.2 The direct effect of all this has been the transformation of the Palestinian land into a predominantly Jewish-Israeli area.
In Beit Sureik, Palestinian farmers had succeeded to protect part of their land from confiscation by Israel’s illegal Wall through popular resistance and legal action. Three thousand dunams3 were lost, but some agricultural land “essential for the wellbeing of the village population” was saved based on a ruling of the Israeli Supreme Court4, which has otherwise refused to uphold the 2004 advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice. The route currently planned for the A1 train passes through the land which was found to be “essential for the wellbeing” of the community by the Court.5
Beit Iksa is a village that has offered shelter to many Palestinian refugees, victims of Israel’s 1948 ethnic cleansing of the Ramle-Lydda area. In 1967, Israeli military operations induced the flight of a large portion of Beit Iksa’s population. Today, 80% of the remaining 2,000 inhabitants are UNRWA-registered 1948 refugees. Israel has already confiscated 40% of the village’s agricultural land for construction of the Jewish colony of Ramot, and 60% of the remaining land are slated to fall behind Israel’s illegal Wall. On 10 November 2010, Israeli authorities handed a “land acquisition order” to the Beit Iksa Village Council. The order states that 50 dunams will be confiscated for the A1 rail project: 20 dunams will be confiscated permanently to build an access road to the tunnel; and 30 dunams will be confiscated “temporarily” for use as construction site. The Israeli order states that the latter will be given back to the population but it does not say when. Five hundred olive trees are at risk of uprooting. Among those affected by the A1 rail project are at least 10 Palestinian refugee families (350 individuals) who are registered with UNRWA. All of these families are economically vulnerable; they suffer from unemployment and rely on the olive oil they produce. Six of these families will once more have their land confiscated. Another family will not see their land confiscated but will not have access to it any longer.6
As such, the A1 rail project forms part of Israel’s colonial and apartheid infrastructure that serves the dominant Jewish population and constitutes yet another step in the implementation of Israel’s policy of forced population transfer which has, for more than six decades, persistently dispossessed and displaced Palestinians, denied refugee return, and prevented exercise of the right to self-determination by the Palestinian people.
Palestinian civil society represented by the BNC calls upon:
- the Governments of Germany and Russia to stop the involvement of their respective state-owned companies in Israel’s unlawful A1 rail project;
- Private business to immediately withdraw from the project;
- National and local governments and city councils to end existing contracts and not to engage in new contracts with the companies involved in the A1 project;
- People of conscience to initiate or escalate effective boycotts and divestment campaigns against the companies involved in the project, including pressuring financial institutions to divest from the companies involved in the A1 project.
Together we can ensure accountability and social-legal responsibility of governments and private business, derail the unlawful A1 train project, expose Israel’s regime of occupation, colonialism and apartheid over the Palestinian people as well as its policy of forced population transfer, and promote respect for the right to reparations of Palestinian victims and the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.
The BNC thanks and warmly salutes the Coalition of Women for Peace and its Who Profits from the Occupation? project, whose valuable and timely research on the A1 train project and complicit companies will facilitate a successful campaign.
1 The Human Rights Dimension of Population Transfer Including the Implantation of Settlers, Preliminary Report prepared by A.S. Al-Khawasneh and R. Hatano. Commission on Human Rights Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, Forty-fifth Session, 2-27 August 1993, E/CN.4/Sub.2/1993/17 of 6 July 1993, para 15 and 17.
3 A dunam is equivalent to 1000 square meters.
4 http://www.whoprofits.org/articlefiles/WP-A1-Train.pdf Israel’s Supreme Court has not recognized the 2004 ICJ Wall ruling and has therefore acted in complicity with the state’s plans to use the Wall as a land grab and a tool of forced displacement for the indigenous Palestinian population.
6 Data source: Badil Resource Center for Palestinian Residency and Refugee Rights