More than 30 prominent human rights organizations and trade unions from Palestine and Europe have submitted a report to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Geneva, demanding that CAF (Construcciones y Auxiliar de Ferrocarriles) from the Basque region of Spain be included in the UN database of businesses involved in Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise.
CAF participated in the building of Israel’s Jerusalem Light Rail (JLR) and is currently expanding the public transportation network, entrenching Israel’s illegal settlements in occupied the West Bank and annexed East Jerusalem. According to a report in Al-Ittihad from Tuesday, December 15, Israeli peace activists blocked construction of the Jerusalem Light Rail in Gilo settlement. They held a banner saying “CAF Get off Israel’s Apartheid Train” and called for CAF to withdraw from the project. The activists climbed aboard bulldozers and called on CAF to adhere to the Palestinian call for a boycott. The protesters were arrested by police.
The UN database of companies involved in Israel’s illegal settlement enterprise was published in February 2020, listing 112 Israeli and multinational companies, including CAF’s Israeli partner, Shapir. OHCHR is mandated to annually update the database. In 2016 and 2017, the UN Human Rights Council deemed the Jerusalem Light Rail illegal, saying it is “in clear violation of international law and relevant United Nations resolutions”.
In the joint report submitted to OHCHR by the 30 human rights organizations and trade unitons, the authors explain that, “By connecting and facilitating mobility between the settlements, West Jerusalem, and Israel, the JLR substantially contributes to the maintenance and expansion of Israel’s illegal settlements in occupied East Jerusalem and to the entrenchment of Israel’s illegal annexation of the city, ultimately consolidating Israel’s annexation of occupied Palestinian territory contrary to international law.”
In February 2020, 70 Basque groups launched a campaign calling on CAF to withdraw from the JLR. Two weeks ago, people all over the Basque country – in Iruña, Bilbao, Gasteiz, and Oñati – protested to demand that CAF stop building the light railroad.
Kepa Torrijos from Sodepaz, one of the signing organizations from the Basque country, said to the Palestinian news agency WAFA, “Groups in the Basque country are working tirelessly to end Basque complicity with Israeli apartheid. We are closely working with trade unions inside of CAF who from the very beginning also called for the company not to participate in the bidding. The key workers council at CAF’s headquarters in Beasain has called for CAF to withdraw from the project. We are also connected with groups all over Europe who are trying to get CAF excluded from public tenders until CAF ends its involvement in Israeli apartheid.” In addition, Spanish human rights organizations, trade unions in Norway, and civil society groups in the UK are calling on CAF to be excluded from public contracts in their countries due to its construction of the light rail in East Jerusalem.