The project to develop the Jerusalem – Tel Aviv high-speed rail line, also known as the A1, dates back to 1995. It has since undergone alterations and suffered setbacks due to the opposition from Israeli society, concerned over the damage the train line would cause to local communities and the environment, leading several companies to withdraw.
The route was therefore changed and, despite making it longer, will now run through the areas close to the armistice line of 1949 (the “Green Line”) and the enclave of Latrun, and will go through an extensive area located within the Palestinian territories occupied in 1967, home to Palestinian communities, including many refugees from 1948 and 1967.
The rail line will not only damage the environment (something not tolerated by the Israeli population and now imposed on the Palestinian population), but also constitutes a flagrant violation of international law, in that it runs for 6.5 km through the occupied West Bank, in violation of International Human Rights Law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention, which prohibits the exploitation of land by the occupying power. Israel has instead expropriated Palestinian land in order to build permanent structures destined to meet the exclusive needs of its civilian population. Once completed, the A1 will provide high-speed rail services between Jerusalem and Tel Aviv for Israelis commuters only.
The A1 project is also part of the long-term Israeli policy aimed at effecting the forcible transfer of the Palestinian population, which will once again, as is evident from the planned route, be forced to leave given that the loss of additional land will lead to the destruction of sources of livelihood. These same livelihoods have already been reduced as a result of expropriations carried out by the Israeli authorities for the construction of infrastructure for Israeli citizens as well as the separation wall.
The villages most affected are Beit Surik and Beit Iksa.
In Beit Surik, while Palestinian farmers suffered the confiscation of much land for the construction of Israel’s illegal wall, they did manage to preserve an essential part of the land as a source of livelihood for the village, thanks to the 2004 ruling of the Israeli Supreme Court, which declared it an “essential resource for the subsistence of the community(1).” However, they now risk losing it permanently and completely. While the planned route for the A1 train line passes through the village’s land, this time the Israeli Supreme Court (2), as in other cases, did not uphold the 2004 advisory opinion of the International Justice Court.
Beit Iksa is a village that has welcomed many Palestinian refugees, victims of Israeli ethnic cleansing in the Ramle-Lydda area in 1948. Following the war of 1967, a large proportion of the population of Beit Iksa was once again forced to flee. Today, 80% of the remaining 2,000 inhabitants are registered as refugees of 1948 by UNRWA. Israel confiscated 40% of agricultural land in the village for the construction of the Jewish settlement of Ramot, while the remaining 60% is located behind Israel’s illegal Wall. On November 10, 2010, Israeli authorities handed the village council of Beit Iksa another “order of land acquisition,” which will be used for the A1 railway project, access roads to the tunnel and related construction infrastructure. Five hundred olive trees are at risk of being uprooted, leading to the ruin of families already living under economical hardship, who suffer the effects of unemployment and whose livelihoods are dependent on the olive oil they produce.
The A1 railway project, therefore, becomes part of a colonial and apartheid infrastructure system, catering to the needs of the Israeli population while denying those of the Palestinian population, which has lived on the land for centuries. At the same time it is another step in the implementation of Israel’s policy of forced transfer of Palestinians who, after being stripped of their resources and driven from their land, see their right to return denied completely.
The involvement of Pizzarotti S.p.A. in this project, despite its obvious illegality, therefore constitutes complicity in war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Israel. In fact, the resulting forced population transfer, which is defined as “systematic, coercive and deliberate nature of the movement of population into or out of an area, … with the effect or purpose of altering the demographic composition of a territory, … particularly when that ideology or policy asserts the dominance of a certain group over another”(3), constitutes a war crime and a crime against humanity under international law.
We therefore call upon:
THE ITALIAN COALITION ‘STOP THAT TRAIN’
To endorse the call:
For the list of endorsements, see the Italian version.
2. http://www.whoprofits.org/articlefiles/WP-A1-Train.pdf. Israel’s Supreme Court has not recognized the 2004 ICJ Wall ruling and has therefore acted in complicity with the state’s plans to use the Wall as a land grab and a tool of forced displacement for the indigenous Palestinian population.
3. The Human Rights Dimension of Population Transfer Including the Implantation of Settlers, Preliminary Report prepared by A.S. Al-Khawasneh and R. Hatano. Commission on Human Rights Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, Forty-fifth Session, 2-27 August 1993, E/CN.4/Sub.2/1993/17 of 6 July 1993, para 15 and 17.