In 2002, the CityPass consortium was awarded the contract to build and run the Jerusalem light rail. Amnesty International, the Arab League, and unions, church and community groups worldwide have condemned this project as another step in Israel's annexation of Palestinian land.
Connex, an offshoot of French multinational Veolia, won a 5% stake in the construction and an 80% stake to run the service.
The company is better known in Australia as the private operator of Melbourne's notoriously inefficient train system. Veolia is also bidding for the contract to build the environmentally unfriendly desalination plant planned by Victoria's government.
The official Israeli government claim is that the light rail is being built to ease Jerusalem's traffic congestion. Yet a 2008 briefing issued by the Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Campaign (GPAAC) says: "The light rail is one of the [Israeli] occupation's key infrastructure projects to literally cement Jerusalem's fate as a Jewish-only capital of Israel."
The light rail is "an integral part of the Zionist scheme to ethnically cleanse the city and is tantamount to a war crime", GPAAC says.
During the official contract ceremony in July 2005, then Prime Minister Ariel Sharon expressed the political purpose of the project. "I believe that this [the light rail] should be done, and in any event, anything that can be done to help strengthen Jerusalem, construct it, expand it and sustain it for eternity as the capital of the Jewish people and the united capital of the State of Israel, should be done", he said.
The route of the light rail is designed largely to bypass the Palestinian population, but incorporate illegal Israeli settlements around East Jerusalem. The plan is to integrate the Israeli settlements with the centre of the city.
GPAAC calls upon "our supporters in the countries where Connex operate[s], to use all forms of popular pressure, protest and boycotts against [it], until they end their support for the Israeli project to ethnically cleanse Jerusalem".
Palestine solidarity activists in Melbourne have raised the call for Victoria's government to cancel its contract with Connex.
The Sack Connex, Boycott Israel campaign will be launched by the Coalition of Palestine support groups at a mass leafleting on Monday March 30 outside Flinders street station at 10am (under the clocks).