Bethlehem, Ma’an — Palestinian civil society groups called on Tehran to cut ties with two French companies profiting from work in illegal settlements in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday.
A day after Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad took center stage as a critic of Israel at a UN conference in Geneva, the Palestinian Campaign for Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) criticized Iran for business ties with Veolia Environment and Alstrom.
According to the Tehran Times, the Tehran Municipality is involved in negotiations with Veolia Environment for the development of the city’s urban transport system.
Alstom has a headquarters in Tehran and received a number of large contracts, including a 192 million euro contract with Iran’s state railways in 1999 and a larger 375 million euro contract to supply 50 turbo compressors to Iran in 2002.
The two firms are the investors behind the Citypass consortium that won a 2002 tender issued by Israeli authorities for a light rail line that connects Jerusalem to settlements in the occupied West Bank. The consortium is responsible for construction, operation, and maintenance of the system for a 30-year period.
The Palestinian BDS National Committee (BNC) called on Tehran to “take the necessary steps to ban Veolia and Alstom and their subsidiaries from any contracts and operations in the country.”
Veolia and Alstom have already been targeted for boycott in countries across Europe. In 2006 the Dutch ASN Bank decided to exclude Veolia from its portfolio on account of the firm’s actions in occupied Jerusalem. In 2008, the company lost its bid to for a contract with Stockholm for eight years, worth 3.5 billion euro, partially due to a strong public sentiment against the company due to its involvement the Jerusalem rail project.
Later, the Swedish national pension fund AP7 blacklisted Alstom, partially for its Jerusalem involvement.
Less than a week ago Veolia lost a contract worth 750 million euro in Bordeaux, France after pressure from pro-Palestine activists.
President Ahmadinejad’s speech to the UN’s Durban Review Conference against racism sparked a walkout by European diplomats and drew condemnation from Israeli and Western officials.
Ahmadinejad called Israel the “most cruel and racist regime” during his speech.
This article was first published by the Ma’an News Agency on 21 April 2009; it is reproduced here for educational purposes.