By Amira Hass, Haaretz Correspondent
The chairman of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas’ office, Dr. Rafiq Husseini, on Monday urges all Arab countries to cancel their business ties with two French companies – Veolia and Alstom – involved in the construction of a Jerusalem-based light railway which passes through the West Bank.
Husseini spoke in a press conference organized by the BNC – The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee – made up of several non governmental organizations.
So far, the Palestinian civil society organization are those which have initiated local and international activities calling for various types of boycotts (mainly on companies which are active in the occupied territories, and on Israeli academics and artists.)
It seems that the international attention their activities have garnered has encouraged the Palestinian Authority to join in the boycotts: The new Palestinian minister of economy, Hassan abu Libdeh, recently declared that the PA considers itself obliged to enforce the ban (so far declarative only) on selling settlements products in the Palestinian market.
Also present at the press conference were Jerusalem Mufti Mohammad Hussein and Orthodox Archbishop Attallah Hanna, both of whom supported the requested boycott.
This is the first time that the BNC has publicly addressed Arab nations, specifically Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and requested that they join the boycott and cancel their existing contracts with the French companies.
Until recently the committee has focused – with the assistance and support of organizations abroad – on arranging activities in the West which have brough to the termination of business deals with the two companies in Sweden, Britain, France and Australia.
The committee has petitioned the Saudi government to end their business deals, specifically with Alstom, but have yet to receive a response.
Saudi Arabia has contracts worth billions of dollars with Alstrom to build a railway to Mecca, as well other deals to constryct power plants.
Husseini lambasted those Arab countries continuing to work with the two companies, accusing them of “not fulfilling their duties” despite the repeated requests by the Palestinian from them and from the Arab League.
The committee worded softer criticism and said in a press release that “the BNC strongly urges Arab governments to practically translate their consistent verbal support for Palestinian rights in Jerusalem into action, at least by refusing to deal on a business-as-usual basis with companies implicated in violation of international law and Palestinian rights.”
According to the committee, building the light rail on occupied territory is a violation of international law.