CAF get off Israel's apartheid train
In August 2019, a consortium led by the Basque company CAF and the Israeli infrastructure company Shapir was selected by Israel’s finance ministry to lead the expansion of the railway network serving Israel’s illegal colonial settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, known as the Jerusalem Light Rail (JLR).
Israel’s settlement enterprise is considered a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.
In addition, Shapir, which is in consortium with CAF to expand the JLR, is listed in the UN database of companies that are complicit in Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise.
The JLR project contravenes international law since it solidifies Israel’s grip on occupied Palestinian land, including East Jerusalem. By participating in it, CAF is contributing to Israel’s serious violations of international law and Palestinian human rights.
CAF and Saphir won the $1.8 billion contract to extend the railway to more illegal Israeli settlements, particularly in East Jerusalem, and to strengthen transportation links between those settlements and West Jerusalem.
Israel is only able to maintain its regime of occupation, colonisation and apartheid over the Palestinian people because of international complicity. Corporations play a key role in this.
The Jerusalem Light Rail (JLR) project is so blatantly illegal that other multinationals which had participated in the initial stages of bidding for the project, including Alstom, Siemens, Systra, Bombardier and Macquarie withdrew from the call for tenders, leaving just two consortiums bidding.
The French company Veolia was forced to pull out of the same illegal Israeli JLR project in 2015 after losing billions of dollars in international tenders due to sustained BDS campaigning in Europe, the US and several Arab countries.
The Israeli business publication Globes claimed, expectedly, that the other firms did not “officially withdraw from the process for political reasons” but admitted that “for most of the international transportation and infrastructure companies, Jerusalem is ‘outside the pale.’”
By carrying out this project, CAF is also violating its own code of conduct, where it says that "any action by CAF and its members will keep scrupulous respect for laws, human rights and public liberties." The Basque Autonomous Community government owns shares of CAF, which should ensure that no public money supports Israel’s illegal occupation of the occupied Palestinian territory.
Corporate involvement in the crimes of Israel’s regime of occupation and apartheid is not only morally reprehensible and a legal liability. It can hurt business, too.
The Palestinian East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Issawiya sits at the edge of Israel’s illegal settlement of Giv’at Shapira, the first stop of the line CAF will build.
To build the settlement of Giv’at Shapira, and part of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel confiscated land from residents of Issawiya and other villages, demolished their homes and expelled its families.
The Israeli army regularly raids Issawiya, invades the homes of Palestinians, arrests people without charge and demolishes family homes, against international law.
CAF will contribute to the intensification of Israel’s repression of Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem villages, including Issawiya like Alstrom and Veolia have contributed to Israel’s repression of the Palestinian neighbourghood Shu’afat.
At the other end of the line slated to be built by CAF is Israel’s illegal settlement of Gilo. The settlement was built on land stolen from the Palestinian neighbourhoods of Beit Safafa, Sharafat, and al-Walaja as well as the Palestinian city of Bethlehem and neighboring Beit Jala.
Israel built the settlement of Gilo to separate Palestinians of Bethlehem from their city, Jerusalem, and to illegally annex the land as part of the Israeli-defined Jerusalem Municipality.
The apartheid wall Israel built to annex Gilo ghettoised Bethelehem and al-Walaja and economically squeezed these areas that once were connected - economic, culturally, socially and politicall - to Palestinian Jerusalem.
CAF is building the Jerusalem Light Rail on land stolen from Palestinians and privileging freedom of movement for illegal Israeli settlers at the expense of Palestinian human rights and basic freedom.
Over 200 Coventry University academics, staff, and students wrote to the university, where CAF’s branch in the UK is headquartered, to urge CAF to end its involvement in operating the illegal Jerusalem Light Rail. The letter asks the university to terminate all business relationships with CAF if it does not exit the illegal Jerusalem Light Rail.
The Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies also called on UN Global Compact to exclude CAF due to its complicity in human rights violations.
Members of the Spanish parliament called on CAF to end its activities in the illegal Jerusalem Light Rail. These included: Maria Dantas from Esquerra Republicana de Catalunya, Carles Riera from Candidatura d’Unitat Popular, Anton Gomez-Reino from Podemos, Lucía Muñoz Dalda from Podemos, Roberto Uriarte from Podemos and Enrique Santiago, General Secretary of the Spanish Communist Party who is also an MP of Podemos.
Even though CAF’s AGM was held online, dozens of activists gathered outside of CAF’s headquarters in Beasain in the Basque country with a huge banner that read “Israel kills, CAF is complicit”. A big banner saying “Rails of blood - CAF stop assisting apartheid” was also extended from the bridge across the village’s river.
Basque media outlet Gara published a letter by progressive Israeli activists to CAF’s Board of Directors urging them to terminate the company’s complicity in Israel’s colonisation of Palestinian land.
Amnesty International Spain sent a letter to CAF shareholders urging them to end CAF’s violations of international humanitarian law and Palestinian human rights and to drop its business with Israel’s illegal JLR. Following Amnesty’s letter, over 7,000 people contacted the shareholders with the same demand. Hundreds of people also wrote to Arantxa Tapia and María Ainhoa Ondarzabal Izaguirre, members of the Basque government which owns shares in CAF.
The Comité de Solidaridad con la Causa Árabe (CSCA) submitted a complaint against CAF and Shapir for violation of the OECD Guidelines for Multinational Companies to Israel’s and Spain’s National Contact Points in charge of advancing the OECD Guidelines
Norwegian Oil Fund announced it would divest from two Israeli companies, one of them Shapir, CAF’s partner in the JLR, “due to unacceptable risk that the companies contribute to systematic violations of individuals’ rights in situations or war or conflict.” The Norwegian Oil Fund currently owns three percent of CAF’s shares.
Members of the coalition “CAF: get off Israel’s apartheid train” spoke at the Comission of Economic Development of the Navarran Parliament and at the Comission of Foreign and European Affairs of the Basque Government demanding that CAF exit the illegal JLR project. Fayrouz Sharqawi, director of Grassroots Al-Quds and David Bondia, professor of international law at the University of Barcelona also spoke as part of the coalition’s intervention. The speakers reminded the parliament of its responsibility to stop CAF from profiting from human rights violations.
In commemoration of Palestinian Land Day, numerous events took place across Europe to denounce CAF’s involvement in Israeli apartheid. The General Federation of Independent Trade Unions - Palestine and the Palestinian New Federation of Trade Unions wrote a letter to public institutions in Europe asking to exclude CAF from public contracts. Protests were held in Oslo, Zaragoza, Paris and Saint Ettiene demanding that CAF exit the illegal Jerusalem Light Rail project. In the Basque Country, large mobilisations took place on Palestinian Land Day that were supported by major trade unions protesting CAF’s and Basque institutions’ complicity in Israeli apartheid. These mobilisations took place in Iruña, Donostia, Bilbao and Gasteiz.
Over 6,000 people wrote to Norske Tog, the Norwegian public train company, to urge them to exclude CAF from public contracts due to its role in the JLR, after CAF bid for a Norske Tog public tender.
31 Palestinian and European human rights organisations, networks and trade unions demand that Basque company CAF be included in UN settlement database.
CAF challenged for its complicity in Israeli apartheid throughout Europe. Almost 5,000 people sent emails to CAF’s CEO and the hashtag #CafGetOffIsraelsApartheidTrain reached over one million impressions.
In the Spanish state over 100 people have asked the public train company RENFE not to contract CAF, due to its involvement in the illegal Israeli Jerusalem Light Rail (JLR), in partnership with the Israeli company Shapir that is in the UN database of companies that enable and profit from Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise.
Eighteen human rights groups have asked the Spanish Minister of transport José Luis Abalos to exclude from public tenders CAF and all companies listed in the UN database, such as Alstom. Over thirty organisations in solidarity with Palestine sent a letter to Reyes Maroto the Spanish Minister of Industry and the publicly owned company RENFE. This letter was sent because the Minister had offered more public contracts to CAF in light of the company’s announcement of its plans to shut down one of its factories, Trenasa, causing 118 people to lose their jobs. This decision is incomprehensible seeing that the company ended 2019 with its highest record of earnings and its best record in sales. This and the fact that CAF is involved in an illegal Israeli project that serves settlements, which will expose the company to boycott campaigns globally, are clear evidence that CAF cares very little about its workers’ rights and about human rights in general.
In Oslo, Norway, the Palestine Committee and two railway unions received new trams from the Basque firm CAF with a protest. They're asking Norway’s public sector not to work with CAF until it stops building Israel’s illegal Jerusalem Light Rail, entrenching apartheid.
Eight trade unions in Norway have joined the call to boycott CAF: Norwegian Union of Municipal and General Employees (National), Norwegian Union of Railway workers (National), National Union of Norwegian Locomotivemen (National), Fagforbundet- Helse, Sosial og Velferd, Oslo (Local), Norwegian Civil Service Union at OsloMet (Local), Lokomotivpersonalets forening Oslo (Local), Norwegian Federation of Trade Unions, local 850 (Local), and Oslo Sporveiers Arbeiderforening (Local).
CAF and Shapir are close to signing one of the largest project financing agreements ever agreed in Israel for the construction and operation of a network of lines in the illegal Jerusalem Light Rail project. The financing will be extended by a consortium of banks led by Bank Hapoalim, which like Shapir is included in the UN database of companies profiting from business in Israel’s illegal settlements.
Campaigners in the UK call for CAF to be excluded from the tender for providing rolling stock for HS2, the UKs new high speed railway.
Pressure grows on CAF to quit construction of Israel’s illegal settlement tramway. During its annual meeting, the Basque company faced protests online and on the street, along with shareholder criticism.
Two Basque mayors from two city councils show their opposition to CAF participating in the Jerusalem Light Rail project.
Concerns about the project have been raised not only by global NGOs but also within CAF itself, unions representing workers in the CAF factory that would build equipment for the JLR have expressed their disagreement with the project. Two trade unions in Zaragoza, the Independent Group and CGT, said CAF should withdraw from the project. They said the project was an “affront to the rights of the Palestinian people.” The key workers council at CAF’s headquarters in Beasain reiterated its January call for CAF to withdraw from the project, saying Israel wants to “legitimize” Israel’s military occupation of East Jerusalem.
Activists shared leaflets outside CAF’s AGM asking the company to not participate in the Jerusalem Light Rail.
CAF relies on its image and its contracts with public organisations and private businesses. Effective grassroots campaigning can pressure CAF to end its complicity in violations of Palestinian human rights.
Ask CAF to end its role in the Jerusalem Light Rail to avoid complicity in human rights violations and significant harm to its reputation and international business!
Get your organization or union to join the international campaign.
Campaign against CAF contracts and send us information on CAF contracts or tenders it is participating in.
For more information contact: Fiona Ben Chekroun, BNC Europe Coordinator: [email protected]