Slowly but surely the BDS movement, despite every effort of western “democracies” to stop it, is gaining ground in the fight for a free Palestine and peace and justice for Jew and Arab in the Middle East. The following article appeared on Alakhbar English website on October 28th 2011

Another BDS Victory: Alstom Loses US$10 Billion Saudi Contract Bid

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The Saudi government had previously given phase one of the Haramain railway project to Alstom, a decision that was met with fierce opposition from the BDS movement.

By: Annabel Turner

Published Friday, October 28, 2011

The Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) National Committee is celebrating another success after the French corporation Alstom lost the bid for the second phase of the Saudi Haramain railway project — a deal worth US$10 billion.

“Following this massive loss for Alstom in the Saudi market, we hope that all Arab states will pass laws that exclude from public contracts any company or institution that is complicit in Israel’s violations of international law,” says Omar Barghouti, a leading member of the BDS movement.

He adds, “If the Norwegian sovereign fund can exclude three Israeli companies since 2009 over their involvement in Israel’s human rights violations, we hope Arab states, especially in light of the popular revolutions, will adopt similar guidelines, if not stricter ones. This is the most effective way to stand in solidarity with the people of Palestine and end Israel’s occupation, colonialism, apartheid, and denial of refugee rights.”

The contract for the Haramain rail project — which will connect the holy cities of Mecca and Medina to Jeddah and the King Abdullah Economic City — was awarded to the Saudi-Spanish al-Shoula consortium yesterday. The contract includes the construction of 450km of railway, supplying 35 trains, and managing the system for 12 years.

This is a significant victory for the BDS movement, and a tremendous loss for Alstom. The Saudi government had previously given phase one of the Haramain railway project to Alstom, a decision that was met with fierce opposition from the BDS movement because of Alstom’s complicity in the illegal construction of Israel’s Jerusalem Light Rail. The project, according to official Israeli statements, has the sole intention of “Judaizing Jerusalem.”

The Jerusalem transit line connects illegal Israeli settlements in the West Bank to Jerusalem and surrounding areas. It relies on the colonization of Palestinian land to support the expansion of illegal Israeli settlements, while at the same time, it fragments and divides the surrounding Arab villages.

BDS campaigners have not shied away from pointing to the complicity of Arab states in the occupation of Palestine through their business dealings with Alstom and have asked the Saudi leadership to stop working with the French firm.

The BDS National Committee has systematically targeted Alstom since 2008 through the ‘Derail Veolia and Alstom’ campaign. News of this US$10 billion loss for Alstom adds to similar setbacks, including more than US$12 billion of losses Veolia incurred due to their involvement in the Jerusalem project.

It is alleged that the PLO also urged the Saudi government to withdraw from any further involvement with Alstom.

The Saudi authorities have not revealed the exact reason why they granted the second phase to the al-Shoula group, but a number of statements have been circulated that refer to “multiple factors” influencing their decision, suggesting that increasing political pressure is one of them.

The Saudi decision is in line with an agreement made by consensus at the Arab Summit held in Khartoum in 2006, which both condemned the Jerusalem Light Rail project and called on Alstom and Veolia to immediately halt construction of the railway. The Arab states also demanded that punitive measures be taken against them if they fail to respect their obligations under international law.

However, many Arab states continue to conduct business with Alstom. In Lebanon, the firm is responsible for the control center of the national electricity company (Electricité du Liban). Alstom is also involved in various multi-billion-dollar infrastructure and energy projects in the region, notably in Egypt, Morocco, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. It is also being considered for a number of other major contracts, including a railway project in Iraq, which is worth an estimated US$1.5 billion.

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