Pizzarotti should follow in Deutsche Bahn’s footsteps

Israel/Palestine

Italian construction firm Pizzarotti is stupefied, bewildered, stunned.

In an article on today’s Corriere della Sera, Italy’s top newspaper, covering Deutsche Bahn’s withdrawal from the Israeli project for a high-speed train line that cuts through the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Michele Pizzarotti said “We are astonished to find ourselves involved in these protests.”

Pizzarotti, through a joint venture with Israeli Shapir Engineering, has been contracted to build tunnels in section C of the planned A1 train route from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv; section C starts in the Latrun enclave and ends at Cedars Valley, both in the occupied West Bank.

Michele Pizzarotti can’t seem to understand what all the fuss is about. “We are not the project leaders, we entered into the Israeli high-speed rail as mere executors of a project designed by others, which has already been modified by the Israeli Supreme Court. We had no idea there were complications with the peace process.”

Complications indeed. The German Minister of Transport defined the project as “problematic” from a foreign policy perspective and “possibly in violation of International Law,” leading to the withdrawal of Deutsche Bahn.

In addition to the easily rebutted justifications presented by Pizzarotti during a recent meeting with the Italian Coalition Stop That Train, including having no role in planning the route, the limited environmental impact of tunnels and that the firm is only working on the end of the tunnel on the Israeli side of the Green Line, the Corriere della Sera article included two new gems.

“[T]he railroad could connect Ramallah and be used by Palestinians, and in our construction sites we provide work to Arab technicians and workers.”

The idea that the train would some day link Ramallah, a sort of “railroads for peace,” has often been trotted out by Israeli officials looking to defend the extraterritorial railway. However, as Who Profits pointed out on their Facebook page, in an interview with Israel’s Channel 7 (Hebrew) last August, Minister of the Environment Gil’ad Ardan candidly stated that “reports of a new train line between Ramallah and Gaza, via Ben Gurion Airport, were premature… This is not due to become reality anytime soon, it was only a legal requirement that permitted land confiscations across the Green Line for the needs of the Tel Aviv – Jerusalem train.”

The Pizzarotti construction site as a jobs-for-“Arabs” vehicle would be laughable, if it weren’t so sad. In the Bidu enclave, the area hardest hit by the planned rail route, unemployment is 70%, or twice the average for the West Bank, due to access to Jerusalem, their traditional economic center, being cut-off by the Apartheid Wall – built on Palestinian land. In addition, a document on the Philippines Overseas Employment Office web site shows Pizzarotti wasn’t exactly recruiting “Arabs”.

When asked by Corriere della Sera if they would be following in Deutsche Bahn’s footsteps, Michele Pizzarotti replied, “Not only would that be a disaster for us, because we have already invested 70 million in machinery, but it would also be pointless: the work would continue just the same via our Israeli partner.”

If their Israeli partner had the necessary know-how to build Israel’s longest tunnel, Pizzarotti wouldn’t be involved in the first place. The massive tunnel boring machines used by Pizzarotti have, in fact, never been used before in Israel and partnering with experienced foreign contractors was a formal requirement in some contracts. (See the 28-page report on the A1 Train line from Who Profits)

The Italian Coalition Stop That Train, a network of over 80 associations, is working to convince Pizzarotti to pull out of the project. On Monday a campaign was launched to “Declare Your City Pizzarotti-free”, with a sample resolution to be presented in city and provincial councils throughout Italy excluding Pizzarotti from contracts for public works. The same tactic, drawing on a EU directive that allows for exclusion of companies “guilty of grave professional misconduct,” was used in the campaign against French multinational Veolia, who’s involvement in the light rail project in occupied East Jerusalem has cost the company $10 billion in lost contracts.

And change.org has just recently launched a petition calling on Pizzarotti to “end their involvement with this rail line”.

21 Responses

  1. Sonja
    May 11, 2011, 2:48 pm

    “…as mere executors of a project designed by others”

    Well, that didn’t help Eichmann.

    • American
      May 11, 2011, 4:56 pm

      LOL…good one.

    • lysias
      May 11, 2011, 10:31 pm

      Didn’t Eichmann say he was just a “Spediteur”?

      (At least I believe that line comes up in the Wannsee Conference movie, where Heydrich says (if memory serves): “Er [Eichmann] ist gewissermassen unser Spediteur”.)

  2. Walid
    May 11, 2011, 2:56 pm

    There will be about a million cubic meters of dirt from the tunnel excavation that Israel will be selling to building contractors. The report says that this selling of the occupied territory’s natural resources is against internatinal laws. Stealing Palestinian land on the surface is not enough for Israel, now it will be stealing what’s below.

  3. pabelmont
    May 11, 2011, 3:38 pm

    Let the PA remark to all concerned that they will be ready and willing to consider this (and other like) projects when a Palestinian State has been established by a treaty.
    (And not before.) (After September, the PA — as PS — may be even better positioned to object to illegalities now being executed or planned based on the silly idea that Israel “owns” the West Bank.)

    Tho maybe Israel should be making the arguments of the Mikado.

    All are happy, except the mikado, who says that now no one has been executed. Ko-Ko comes up with the explanation: “When your majesty says, ‘let a thing be done,’ it’s as good as done–practically is done–because your majesty’s word is law.” The mikado is satisfied, and everyone happily sings the finale.

    Israel “knows” that a peace deal, when it finally occurs, will be thus and such. Therefore its ownership of any or all of West Bank is “as good as done” and should be treated by all — let the legitasters languish in their libraries — as, in fact, already done. (All sing the happy finale! Joy! Rapture!)

  4. American
    May 11, 2011, 5:07 pm

    The most important aspect of this to me was the German’s government’s decisions to withdraw Deutsche Bahn from the Israeli project.
    That was huge.
    And huge that they based it on ..1) international law …and 2) political sensitivity..meaning public opinion.
    Proof that the activist BDS is working on governments…..people are having an effect on governments…..if not on the US government.
    But it will work in the US eventually….one day supporting Israel will be the kiss of death for a US politician….and we need to make that happen sooner rather than later.

    link to ft.com

    ”According to a letter sent by Germany’s ministry for transport to a member of parliament, the operator faced criticism for its involvement from the government itself:
    “The federal government pointed out to Deutsche Bahn that the project of the Israeli state railway is problematic from a foreign policy point of view and potentially breaches international law,” it said.
    The letter added that the German operator confirmed “in writing” that there would be no further involvement of its international subsidiary in “this politically very sensitive project”.”

  5. Sumud
    May 11, 2011, 5:32 pm

    Pizzarotti, through a joint venture with Israeli Shapir Engineering, has been contracted to build tunnels in section C of the planned A1 train route from Jerusalem to Tel Aviv; section C starts in the Latrun enclave and ends at Cedars Valley, both in the occupied West Bank.

    The Palestinian villages in the Latrun salient were one of the areas ethnically cleansed and then bulldozed by Israel during the 1967 war, the second “hot” round of the ongoing Nakba, when a further quarter million Palestinians fled the West Bank and Gaza, becoming refugees.

    A short Canadian TV clip from 1991 on the JNF’s building of Canada Park on the ruins of the Palestinian villages in the Latrun salient, Occupied West Bank:

    Rare film describs in details the destruction and the usurption of the lands of ‘Imwas, Yahu and Bayt Nuba.

    A sequence of photos from 1958, 1968, 1978 and 1988 showing the village of Imwas (one of those in the Latrun salient), it’s erasure by the IDF and then the JNF forest planted on the ruins of the villages [the first photo is Imwas in 1958, click on ‘next’ for the 1968 photo etc.]:
    Imwas – عِمواس : General view of our beautiful village in 1958 – before destruction.

    I recall when I first saw those photos – although I knew about the ~500 Palestinian villages destroyed by Israel, I still felt sick in the guts. Don’t stop after the 1988 photo, the photos by the Israeli that document the expulsion of the villagers and destruction of their homes (mention in the Canada Park clip) follow.

    • Walid
      May 12, 2011, 1:59 am

      Sumud, that was a very important clip you posted and I hope everyone took the time (31 minutes) to watch it through. It’s a thorough report on the destruction of the 3 villages where Pizzarotti is going ahead with the tunneling and it contains interviews with Uri Avnery that in 1967, as Member of the Knesset tried to stop the destruction and with Amos Kenan, the soldier that alerted Avnery to what Israel was doing. It also has the interview with Rabin that admitted giving the orders to destroy the villages and it showed him lying through his teeth about the Egyptian threat that existed there. It has an interview with a JNF official lying about the Canada Park not being located on the wrong side of the green line. The clip shows wall-to-wall lies by Israelis. The heart wrenching 5th Estate clip was meant to inform Canadians on the evils of Canada Park.

      Israel’s vicious 1948 emptying of Palestinian villages, their destruction and the forced marches was repeated in 1967. Avnery wrote:

      “… It happened in 1967, after the Israeli army had conquered the West Bank. Immediately afterwards the writer Amos Kenan, who was a soldier serving in the Latrun area, came to me. He put on my desk a report about what he had seen with his own eyes. (I was at the time a Member of the Knesset and the editor of Haolam Hazeh newsmagazine.)

      In the shocking report Kenan described how the inhabitants of four villages in the Latrun area had been evicted from their homes. Men and women, children and old people, had been forced to walk, in the stifling heat of over 30 degrees Centigrade, towards Ramallah, a distance of 30 km. Immediately afterwards, the army had begun to destroy the houses.

      I hastened there. The four villages–Imwas, Yalu, Bet-Nuba and Dir-Ayub–were already almost obliterated. I saw the bulldozers flattening the last houses. When I tried to take photos, the soldiers drove me away.

      From there I went to the Knesset and begged senior officials to intervene. After they contacted whoever they contacted, they told me that it was too late. The demolition was finished.

      Why these villages? Why in such a hurry? This area of the West Bank forms a bulge that dominates the old road from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem, which had been cut off in 1948. The government was convinced that the world would force Israel to give back all the territories it had occupied, as happened in the previous war, 1957. They thought that if the four villages were erased without leaving a trace, Israel would be able to keep this area, at least.

      No pressure on Israel materialized, of course, and Israel was left in possession of all the occupied territories until now. The refugees still linger in the camps of Ramallah. On their land the “Canada Park” was created, to the greater glory of that humanist and liberal country, which accepted the honor gratefully.

      While the tractors worked in the Latrun area, something similar happened in Kalkilya. After the town was conquered, the army started to systematically dynamite a central neighborhood. The inhabitants were expelled and forced to walk to Nablus, some 25 km away. There they were lying around in public parks.”

      link to counterpunch.org

      • Sumud
        May 14, 2011, 3:58 am

        Sumud, that was a very important clip you posted and I hope everyone took the time (31 minutes) to watch it through.

        Cheers Walid. You probably know I’ve posted that clip before, but I think it and the photo set from 1958-1978 give a devastating insight to just how horrific the situation has been for Palestinians. The action of totally wiping Palestinian villages off the face of the earth reminds me of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The fact that it was done ~500 times and the international community let Israel get away with it is really mind-boggling.

    • MRW
      May 12, 2011, 5:00 am

      That CBC 5th Estate Report that Sumud linked to is fabulous, from the days when CBC-TV told the truth and sought it out without phony entertainment rancour, but journalistic industry and research.

      Does an Israeli official ever tell the truth? The contempt with which they treat everyone not themselves is amazing, there seems to be absolutely no concern for what they reveal about themselves.

      The Israeli soldier from 1967 who told the truth about what they did in the article that he was afraid to go into in 1991 was great.

      • Walid
        May 12, 2011, 6:53 am

        Also great in the 5th Estate video was “break their bones” Rabin saying that international law was Ok as long as it did not get in the way of Israel’s security. Maybe this is from where Dersh picked up the concept that he passed on to the gathered vultures at the Herzliya annual and from where Livni in spite of being a lawyer, picked up her philosophy that she did not believe in international law. Disregard of international law is a Zionist trait.

        Yes, the 5th Estate was a great program. Anyone that would watch the video Sumud posted would discover good journalism.

    • eljay
      May 12, 2011, 9:13 am

      >> A sequence of photos from 1958, 1968, 1978 and 1988 showing the village of Imwas … [and its] erasure by the IDF …

      This photo shows houses, schools, businesses and places of worship.
      This photo shows “a land without a people for a people without a land.”

      Clearly, the destruction was a “required” evil, “necessary” for the creation of a supremacist “Jewish state”.

    • pabelmont
      May 12, 2011, 10:43 am

      sumud: Thank you for providing these materials. They were very moving for me and I have posted them, with your text, at my website as Visceral report of exile of Palestinians in 1967 war
      .

      If you’d prefer me to take it down, let me know.

      • Sumud
        May 14, 2011, 4:00 am

        Peter ~ you’re most welcome, and I’m flattered you wanted to quote me. It’s an extremely informative and [you’re right] moving piece.

  6. Jim Haygood
    May 11, 2011, 8:00 pm

    ‘The idea that the train would some day link Ramallah, a sort of “railroads for peace,” has often been trotted out by Israeli officials looking to defend the extraterritorial railway.’

    Not merely railroads for peace, but ‘Right of Return’ homecoming trains!

    Like the scene at Checkpoint Charlie on 9 Nov 1989, with West Germans welcoming their bewildered eastern cousins with flowers and spending money.

    Dream on, Pizzarotti …

  7. lysias
    May 11, 2011, 10:33 pm

    At least the Corriere article reports the claim that Palestinians will not be allowed to use the rail line.

    • Walid
      May 12, 2011, 3:23 am

      Michele Pizzarotti doesn’t see what the fuss is about, maybe because his company has several major transportation projects in Algeria and Morocco as well as the recently completed Dubai metro and now a 5-star hotel in Fujairah and he appears to have never heard an objection from any of them over the work in the Latrun. It’s somewhat like Veolia-Alstom that was building the Jerusalem light rail while it was getting billions’ worth of contracts in Saudi Arabia.

  8. Robert767
    May 12, 2011, 3:12 am

    “Imagine my shock” says Michele,”when I discovered that some other people lived in that area and claimed the land was theirs” he continues with a look of genuine amazement.”I have spent most of my life with my head all the way up my rectum, and had no idea it was not all Israel’s”.

    • Chaos4700
      May 12, 2011, 3:46 am

      That’s why they formulated Ziocaine(tm) to be lucre-soluble and it comes prepackaged in an enema kit specially made for corporate barons. Boy does it speed up absorption!

    • Citizen
      May 12, 2011, 5:21 am

      Meh. Robert, that’s what it takes “to run a railroad” these days. Just run the tracks right over the Palestinians, and blast holes in the dirt under their feet. I guess when G-D breathed life into man from the dirt, no Palestinian dirt was included.

  9. Daniel Rich
    May 12, 2011, 6:01 am

    Q: “[T]he railroad could connect Ramallah and be used by Palestinians, and in our construction sites we provide work to Arab technicians and workers.”

    R: Yes, because they [Palestinians in Gaza] already have ‘constructed their ‘own tunnels,’ the only thing we have to do is to provide miniturized trains.

    Like the Eichman comment. Appreciated.

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