May 31, 2009

With friends like Saudi Arabia, who needs enemies

Saudi Arabia awarded $1.8 billion dollars to a consortium that would build a rail link between Mecca and Medina. One company in the consortium is the French Alstom, which is also building a light rail that will connect the Jewish settlements around Jerusalem to the city center. The rail link will be another important step in the colonization of the Jerusalem center, enabling Jewish settlers to avoid the overcrowded, badly maintained and often blocked roads left to Palestinians. The rail will of course make the settlements around Jerusalem more attractive for Jewish Israeli settlers. The project involves the Israeli government and the French contractors in making permanent changes to the infrastructure of the Occupied Palestinian Territories, which the Fourth Geneva Convention forbids, without any military necessity but to facilitate the illegal colonization.

There is a campaign against the companies, mostly Veolia and Alstom, in Europe and Australia, which includes both lawsuits in France and popular appeals for boycotts. This campaign has already bore fruits, with the involved companies losing a number of big contracts and being excluded from pensions funds. The Australian ASN Bank divested from Veolia, and so did the Swedish National pension fund. Likewise, Veolia lost a $1.9 billion waste improvement plan with the Sanswell Metropolitan Borough, the contract to operate the subway in Stockholm and an urban Network in Bordeau (Nadia Hijab, The Israel Boycott is Biting). Saudi Arabia has other priorities.

It is noteworthy that, According to Gulf News, Palestinian authority officials, despite usually supporting normalization with Israel, are involved in putting pressure on Saudi Arabia to rescind that contract. If the U.S.-E.U.-Israel effort to normalize the occupation cannot rely even on Mahmoud Abbas's "authority" to stand against the global anti-apartheid movement, that is bad news for Israel.

As it were, at least according to Gulf News, the "authority"'s pressure is somewhat underwhelming.
Palestinian foreign ministry officials have expressed reservation at a recent Saudi announcement awarding the contract for the Haramain Express railway to a consortium consisting of French company Alstom Transport....Backchannel talks with the Saudis are ongoing," a Palestinian foreign ministry official said on condition of anonymity.
Not exactly a profile in leadership, but significant nonetheless.

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