German railway nixes Israel rail project
Deutche Bahn to stop construction work on Tel Aviv-Jerusalem track because it passes through Palestinian territories, German magazine Der Spiegel reports. Decision influenced by pro-Palestinian campaign headed by Israeli feminist group
Meirav Crystal, 05.10.11 YNET
German national railway company Deutche Bahn will cease working on the Tel Aviv- Jerusalem train line because it passes through the West Bank, German newspaper Der Spiegel reported this week.
According to the report, the railway company decided to abandon the project following mounting pressure from German, Palestinian and Israeli elements, headed by the Coalition of Women for Peace – an Israeli feminist organization.
In their campaign, the pro-Palestinian organizations claimed that parts of the track are located beyond the Green Line, in violation of international law, and therefore called on the German company to withdraw from the project.
An official at the German Transportation Ministry expressed concern over the project on March 14, saying it potentially violates the rules of international law.
Deutche Bahn has been in charge of electricity and communications control on the Tel Aviv– Jerusalem line.
According to the report, German Transportation Minister Peter Ramsauer discussed the sensitivity of the matter with Deutche Bahn Director Rüdiger Grube.
The railway company told Der Spiegel that the project was "problematic" politically, and may be in violation of international law. A company's spokesperson noted that Israeli officials were informed on the matter.
Pro-Palestinian activists taking part in the campaign welcomed the decision, one blogger writing: "International campaign successfully encourages German National Railways (Deutsche Bahn) to withdraw from supportive role in the construction of an Israeli train from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem that crosses Palestinian villages in the Occupied Territories.
"German National Railways (Deutsche Bahn) has announced that it will no longer participate in the construction of a high-speed Israeli train line from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem as the route passes through occupied Palestinian territory yet is intended for the exclusive use of Israeli citizens," the blogger stated.
The Coalition of Women for Peace, which spearheaded the campaign against the train tracks, initiated the Who Profits project in 2007, with the aim of exposing companies and corporations that are involved in construction projects beyond the Green Line.
The aim of the project is to influence public opinion and lead to a change of policy in the companies.
Project coordinator Merav Amir lauded the decision of the German government, saying “I want to congratulate the German government for making such a clear and bold statement about the illegality of this train route under international law.
“It’s encouraging to see a government abide by their own treaties and adhere to international law, and we call on other European governments to follow suit in making sure that companies in their countries abide by international law.”
Amir noted that American and European companies are often involved in "illegal" construction projects on Palestinian territories: “There is a discrepancy between what EU government's say and what actually happens,” she said.
“Governments issue statements about the illegality of Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, but when you see what the EU commercial sector actually does, usually it violates those very declarations, encouraging Israeli control over occupied territory.”
Despite its announcement, Deutsche Bahn will continue working on other projects in Israel. The work on the Tel Aviv-Jerusalem train line is scheduled to be completed by 2017 and will reduce travel time by 28 minutes.
Israel Railway stated in response, "Deutsche Bahn is responsible for a small part of the project and we are currently working on finding a substitute company."