Crossing the Line! Israel Building High Speed Trains on Palestinian Land

Ah the joys of high-speed rail: efficient, eczema comfortable, good for the environment and great for business. It’s easy to understand why Israelis who sit in three hour traffic jams each morning trying to drive the measly 40 miles from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv see the construction of a 28-minute bullet train between the country’s two main cities as the best thing since packaged hummus.

Trouble is, someone forgot to tell Israeli engineers that a train track set in a straight line between the two cities will run into a not-so-minor problem: Palestine.

Some four miles of the proposed train route, parts of which have already been built, go through Palestinian lands in the West Bank, which has been militarily occupied by Israel since the 1967 War.

Israeli and Palestinian activists are launching a campaign to stop this train, and appealing to foreign activists to target those international companies involved in the project.

Crossing the line“, a new report with a great name, was released today by Who Profits, an on-going investigation into companies profiting off the Israeli occupation. The group is run by The Coalition of Women for Peace, a leading Israeli feminist peace organization.

The report, which has been translated into English and worth a read, outlines how the train line illegally crosses into occupied Palestinian land, some of it privately owned, at a great cost to Palestinian communities. It gets into the nitty gritty of how the train line’s route breaks both international and Israeli law, outlines the effect it will have on Palestinian communities and tells individual stories of the residents.

“According to international law, an occupier may not use the occupied resources solely for the benefit of its own citizens,” the group writes. “This line was planned for the exclusive use of Israeli citizens; it is imposed on the local Palestinian residents by the dictates of a military regime, in which they have no representation; and it would be completely inaccessible to the local residents.”

The leadership of Beit Surik, a Palestinian village set to be severely affected by the train’s route, is calling for international intervention.

“We, the people of Beit Surik, do not want the train line to be built on our land,” they wrote in a public letter (see page 15). “We see as fundamentally important that the people of the world support our right to decide on the use of our own land and help us change the route of this train line”.

Who Profits is using the report as an organizing tool in the campaign to expose the international corporations involved in the planning, engineering, tunneling and construction of the train line. They include: Deutsche Bahn, which is planning the electrification of the route and is owned by the German government; Moscow Metrostroy, which is tunneling a section of the route on Palestinian land and which is owned by the Russian government; and private corporations such as the American planning firm Parsons Brinckerhoff, owned by the British finance house Balfour Beatty; the Swiss engineering firm HBI Haerter and Pizzarotti, an Italian company building a section of the train route through private Palestinian agricultural land.

Pressure these American, British, Swiss and Italian companies to immediately end their involvement with the rail line. Call on the German and Russian governments, both of whose rhetoric is supportive of Israeli withdrawal from the occupied Palestinian territories, to end their involvement in a rail line project which explicitly violates international law by appropriating Palestinian land.

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Photo credit: Peace Now