Occupation is their business
ANNOUNCING THE NEW SETTLERS' EXPRESS
CONNEX, the train operating company known to commuters in the south-east of England, has stepped into international controversy by taking a contract to run a light railway linking settlements in Israel's Occupied Territories - in breach of international law.
The £280 million light railway is to link the Pisgat Ze'ev settlement in north-eastern Jerusalem, along municipal road number 1, through the city centre, Jaffa St., the western entrance to the city, to Mount Herzl. The 13.8 km railway is being constructed by a consortium City-Pass involving domestic investors Polar Investments, Ashtrom Ltd. and Harel Insurance Investments, and Paris-based transport giants Alstom and CGEA-Connex. Connex and Alstom are to operate the railway for the next 30 years.
Connex already operates some bus services in Israel, having taken them over from the Egged Bus Co-operative and put up fares.
Israel's unilateral annexation of Palestininian East Jerusalem together with a large chunk of adjoining territory has never been recognised by anyone else. Nor has its right to establish settlements in occupied territories.
So far, there have been 65 United Nations Security Council and General Assembly resolutions passed against Israeli actions. Resolution 446 declared that settlements on the West Bank and the Gaza Strip were illegal.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser al-Qidwa has pointed out that one of the articles of the Geneva Convention prevents any state from transferring a part of its population onto a territory it occupies, and stipulates that all signatories of the Geneva Convention are bound to stop any company that helps carry out this process. Connex is thus aiding and abetting a breach of international law.
Israel's 'Separation Wall' , which some call its Apartheid Wall, is also an annexation wall. It severs the West Bank from East Jerusalem which would be the natural capital of any Palestinian state. Cutting through Palestinian neighbourhoods and separating villages from their land and water, it expands the area held by Israel and its settlements, and forces Palestinians into shrinking enclaves, linked only by ageing sub-standard roads on which the Israelis maintain checkpoints. Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has boasted that this wall will mark Israel's permanent border. This not only stands against even modest Palestinian aspirations, but makes a mockery of the promises made by the United States and Britain etc with their tattered "road map" to peace. Not that Bush and Blair care.
Expanding Israeli settlements and the ghetto-isation of the Palestinian people - that is not just a contrast, but a recipe for permanent conflict. The railway is to run over stolen Palestinian land, linking annexed Jerusalem with illegal settlements Whether it likes it or not, by partaking of Israel's massive investment in the infrastructure of expansion, Connex has not just gained a contract, it has taken sides.
Business involvment in the Israeli occupation and colonisation programme will come under scrutiny this coming weekend at a conference called by War on Want. Described as a "People's Tribunal to expose the Corporations
behind the Israeli Occupation of Palestine", it will look at the activities of Connex along with Caterpillar, which supplies armoured bulldozers, Daewoo, Volvo and others, including those high street stores that sell wine and other products from the settlements as "Made in Israel". Speakers will include Palestinian MP and presidential candidate Mustafa Barghouti, Professor Jeff Halper, of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, and Elizabeth Corrie, whose cousin Rachel was killed by an Israeli bulldozer destroying Palestinian homes.
It's on Sunday 9 July 2006, from 10.30-18.00 at the Amnesty Human Rights Action Centre 17-25 New Inn Yard, London EC2A 3EA
Nearest tubes: Old Street (Northern line) and Liverpool Street (Central, Circle and Metropolitan lines) Buses: 21, 43, 55, 76, 141, 205, 214,
243, 271, 394. The event is free.