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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


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.

At every opportunity the supporters of Israel tell us that the real reason for the continued conflict in the Holy Land is the commitment of Islamists to the destruction of Israel and their continued hate speech towards all Jewish people. This narrative spin deflects all attention from the real historical roots of the conflict; a tactic mostly preferred by those who would rather that the past not be remembered and that the victims of that history are not allowed into our remembrance.

What gets sifted out of our media reports is that the Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, belongs to a political party that rejects the right of Palestinians to a state and declares that Israel should take over all of Israel-Palestine and Jordan. The charter of the Likud party exists despite the fact that the Palestinians recognised the right of Israel to exist with safe and secure borders way back in 1993. Added to this is the racist indoctrination of Israeli children with regards to their Arab neighbours. the following article was written by Omar Barghouti and published on August 8th 2011.

Israeli textbooks portray Palestinians as ‘terrorists, refugees, and primitive farmers’

by Omar Barghouti on August 8, 2011

This insightful research by respected Israeli scholar Nurit Peled-Elhanan will confirm what Palestinian researchers have always known: Israel’s prevailing culture of racism, fundamentalism, support for war crimes, and apartheid against Palestinians is mainly a product of an educational system that indoctrinates Jewish-Israeli students with militant colonial values and extreme racism that turn them into “monsters” once in uniform.

Guardian: Academic claims Israeli school textbooks contain biasNurit Peled-Elhanan of Hebrew University says textbooks depict Palestinians as ‘terrorists, refugees and primitive farmers

“Peled-Elhanan, a professor of language and education at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, has studied the content of Israeli school books for the past five years, and her account, Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education, is to be published in the UK this month. She describes what she found as racism– but, more than that, a racism that prepares young Israelis for their compulsory military service.

“People don’t really know what their children are reading in textbooks,” she said. “One question that bothers many people is how do you explain the cruel behaviour of Israeli soldiers towards Palestinians, an indifference to human suffering, the inflicting of suffering. People ask how can these nice Jewish boys and girls become monsters once they put on a uniform. I think the major reason for that is education. So I wanted to see how school books represent Palestinians.”

In “hundreds and hundreds” of books, she claims she did not find one photograph that depicted an Arab as a “normal person”. The most important finding in the books she studied – all authorised by the ministry of education – concerned the historical narrative of events in 1948, the year in which Israel fought a war to establish itself as an independent state, and hundreds of thousands of Palestinians fled the ensuing conflict.

The killing of Palestinians is depicted as something that was necessary for the survival of the nascent Jewish state, she claims.”

Those who see this as an aberration of Zionism seem to lack sufficient understanding of what Zionism really is and the central role it plays as a patently racist ideology in justifying ethnic cleansing and racist domination over Palestinians.

One should not wonder then why, at the height of the Israeli massacre in Gaza  2008-09, a Tel Aviv University poll (reported in the Jerusalem Post,  Jan. ’09) of Jewish-Israeli opinion showed a shocking 94% support for the assault, despite full knowledge of the enormous suffering this Israeli aggression had inflicted upon the 1.5 million Palestinians incarcerated in the Gaza “prison camp” and of the massive destruction of their civilian infrastructure.

As in every other colonial system, only sustained and effective pressure from within as well as from without can put an end to this downward spiral of criminality, impunity and unspoken racism. More BDS is needed to end Israeli occupation, colonialism and apartheid. Other than the obvious benefits to indigenous Palestinians, suffering more than six decades of this three-tiered system of Israeli oppression, an end to this system of oppression may well transform most Israelis from colonial “monsters” into normal humans.
(ed note: Nurit Peled-Elhanan is author of  Palestine in Israeli School Books: Ideology and Propaganda in Education. International publisher I.B.TAURIS description: “She analyses the presentation of images, maps, layouts and use of language in History, Geography and Civic Studies textbooks, and reveals how the books might be seen to marginalize Palestinians, legitimize Israeli military action and reinforce Jewish-Israeli territorial identity. This book provides a fresh scholarly contribution to the Israeli-Palestinian debate, and will be relevant to the fields of Middle East Studies and Politics more widely.”)


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