Tourism Infrastructure and Settlement Expansion The Case of the Jerusalem Cable Car

Update | May 2018

In this update, Who Profits provides an overview of the Jerusalem cable car project, highlighting in particular the role of the tourism sector in facilitating Israeli colonial expansion and the involvement of one French corporation, CNA -Cable Neige Amenagement, in the project.

Introduction

In this update, Who Profits provides an overview of the Jerusalem cable car project, highlighting in particular the role of the tourism sector in facilitating Israeli colonial expansion and the involvement of one French corporation, CNA -Cable Neige Amenagement, in the project.

On 28 May 2017, the Israeli cabinet approved a plan to build a cable car to the Old City in occupied East Jerusalem, allocating 4.2 million USD from the budget of the Ministry of Tourism to plan the project. [1] The cable car is the latest in a series of large scale transportation infrastructure projects designed to further entrench Israeli control over the illegally annexed East Jerusalem, most notably the expansion of the Jerusalem light rail and the construction of the Tel Aviv Jerusalem Fast Train (A1). If carried out, the cable car project would give a major boost to the settlement tourism industry in occupied East Jerusalem and strengthen the ongoing Judaization and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian neighborhoods of Silwan and the Old City.

The proposed route of the cable car aims to transport 3,000 passengers an hour, the majority of whom would be tourists, from the western part of Jerusalem directly to a large settler tourist center currently being promoted in Silwan by the settler organization Elad and the Israel Nature and Parks Authority (INPA). In West Jerusalem, the cable car will connect to the Blue Line of the Jerusalem light rail, embedding it in the broader Jerusalem mass transit system. The Blue Line, currently in the planning stages, aims to connect the settlement neighborhoods of Ramot and Gilo in northern and southern occupied East Jerusalem to one another and to the western part of the city. [2]

The cable car would adversely impact Palestinian communities in occupied East Jerusalem. It would involve the expropriation of private Palestinian land as well as the appropriation of occupied public land for a civilian project exclusively benefitting the occupying power, a gross violation of international law, specifically of Article 55 of the Hague Regulations. [3] Moreover, the upper floors of several Palestinian homes may be demolished in order to facilitate the project. [4]

The redirecting of tourist traffic to settler-controlled commercial and tourist sites would also cause severe economic damage to Palestinian businesses and sites in the Old City and surrounding neighborhoods, while amassing huge profits to settler bodies such as Elad and the Western Wall Heritage Center and supporting a Judaized (and largely fabricated) narrative of Jerusalem. [5]

Tourism at the Service of Land Grab and Dispossession

Unlike the Jerusalem light rail, which is promoted by the Jerusalem Municipality through local planning bodies, the cable car is being advanced by the Israeli Ministry of Tourism through a body known as the Committee for National Infrastructure (VATAL), tasked with promoting plans for infrastructure projects deemed to be of “national importance,” such as airports or power plants.

A recent amendment, Amendment 107 to the Planning and Construction Law, expanded the definition of national infrastructure to include tourism infrastructure, and importantly, gave the Minister of Tourism the power to declare “transportation infrastructure that can serve as a tourist attraction and make a significant contribution to tourism” as tourist infrastructure and therefore as a national infrastructure project.

This legislative change allows the cable car to be promoted in an accelerated process that significantly limits public participation and shortens the objections process. [6]

The Tourism Ministry’s foray into transportation infrastructure needs to be understood within the broader context of the role of tourism development in the expansion of the settler enterprise in East Jerusalem and the fragmentation and isolation of Palestinian communities. As Who Profits’ earlier work on the tourism sector shows, nearly 40% of tourist sites frequented by international visitors are located in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt), rendering control of occupied religious and cultural sites critical to Israel’s national tourism industry.

In the occupied Old City, archeology has become a principal tool in this undertaking, with a proliferation of archeological sites in recent years. Perhaps the most notable project is the Kedem Compound, a settler tourist center that will be the final stop on the cable car’s route. The Compound, located at the entrance to the Palestinian village Silwan, is the result of a collaboration between the Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) and the private settler organization Elad, which have joined forces in order to advance the archeological excavations in the site.

Elad intends to provide guided tours for the visitors arriving from West Jerusalem. These tours will incorporate further archeological sites in Silwan, presenting an all-Jewish historical narrative to Israeli and international visitors, completely omitting Palestinian narratives, history and right over the land.

The IAA’s underground excavations in Silwan serve as a vehicle for land expropriation, utilizing archeology to create Jewish territorial contiguity in occupied East Jerusalem. [7] Tunnels passing under Palestinian houses in Wadi Hilweh neighborhood serve as a religious thread connecting the Old City with Ir David National Park (also known as Jerusalem Walls National Park), illegally built on the neighborhood’s land, with the aim of cutting off Silwan from the Old City and increasing the fragmentation of Palestinian communities.

This process is facilitated through a tight collaboration between governmental bodies and an extreme right wing private organization. Though Elad actively and openly works to take control of homes in Silwan and expel their Palestinian residents, it is the body the INPA assigned to run the national park,[8] and is already providing tours in the village, in line with its overall agenda to Judaize East Jerusalem.

In February 2018, The Israeli government approved an agreement between The Company for the Reconstruction and Development of the Jewish Quarter in the Old City of Jerusalem Ltd (a governmental company under the Ministry of Construction and Housing) and Elad,[9] authorizing the latter to operate the Jerusalem Archeological Park – Davidson Center in the Old City, while also committing to donating four million dollars to the development of the park.

According to Israeli law, a site can be declared a national park if it has historical, archeological, or architectural value and if it is has unique nature or landscape characteristics, and eventually it is meant to serve the public for recreational purposes. [10] Emek Tzurim Park, located south of Mount Scopus, occupied East Jerusalem, meets none of these criteria, and according to the INPA, it was declared as such in order to establish territorial contiguity with the Jerusalem Walls National Park. [11] Another official claim is that it reconstructs an overview of the pilgrimage road in ancient times. [12]

Once an area has been declared as a national park, the state gains sole authority over it, and while private land on its ground is not confiscated, the owners can no longer access the land nor do they receive any financial compensation. In the case of Emek Tzurim Park, its declaration as a national park is yet another way to secure the de-development of the surrounding Palestinian neighborhoods of Wadi al Joz and A-Sawana.

A national park is meant to serve the general public, yet the sole purpose of this site, much like other national parks in East Jerusalem (as well as in the West Bank[13]), is to ethnically cleanse Palestinian population centers and to lure more Israeli and international visitors and present them with a carefully curated and largely fabricated Jewish narrative. [14] Indeed, there is a significant increase in Israelis visiting the site, in no small measure due to the fact that governmental bodies and educational Jewish bodies include such sites when sending state officials, Israeli soldiers and international and Israeli groups and students to explore the “Holy Land.”

These are the tourist enterprises to which the cable car infrastructure project seeks to “make a significant contribution.” Alongside more ‘conventional’ forms of forced displacement and de-development of occupied Palestinian villages and neighborhoods, such as settlement construction and public transport routes, these tourist attractions strengthen the Jewish Israeli presence in occupied East Jerusalem on land, underground and now also from the air.

 

Corporate Involvement

According to an expert opinion solicited by the Jerusalem Development Authority, there is no Israeli provider with the necessary expertise to plan the cable car. Partnering with international companies is therefore imperative for the project’s successful execution.

One such partnership, for the preliminary design of the cable car, was announced in early 2015 with the French consortium Safege, a subsidiary of the publicly traded French utilities company Suez Environment (Euronext: SEV). However, the company withdrew from the project after being advised against it by the French Foreign and Finance Ministries.

In this section, Who Profits presents the involvement of the international company selected to replace Safege as the lead planner of the cable car, CNA -Cable Neige Amenagement – Maitrise D’Oeuvre.

CNA is a private French engineering and consulting company specializing in ski resorts and the construction of cable transport systems.

In October 2015, the company was awarded a 145,000 EUR contract by the Jerusalem Development Authority to serve as the main planner for a proposed cable car to the Old City in occupied East Jerusalem. Preliminary work already performed by Safege has been transferred to CNA.

As at July 2017, the company had a planning team of three experts working on the cable car project, consisting of a ropeway systems engineer, a transport architect and town planner and a transport and operation engineer.

Corporate information

CNA is a cooperative limited liability company based in Grenoble, France.

President: Pierre Moguet

Head office:
34 Avenue De L’europe
Le Trident A
F-38100 Grenoble
France
Tel.: +33-476333542

 


[5] Ibid

[8] According to the Israeli National Parks Law, the INPA can transfer the control over a national park to a local authority, if the park is in its territory. The parks are not to be managed by private bodies, making this assignment illegal according to Israeli state law.

[11]Qumran, Ir David and Emek Tzurim – Route“(Hebrew), Israel Nature and Parks Authority, parks.org.il.

[12]Meeting protocol of National Parks and Nature Reserves Council, No. 134, 7.5.09” Israel Nature and Parks Authority, parks.org.il, 7 May 2009.

[13] The growth of national parks and development of archeological projects as a means of confiscating Palestinian land is not limited to East Jerusalem, it is also an ongoing phenomenon in the West Bank, and at many times it is linked to the construction of nearby settlements. These locations at times also offer business opportunities to the private security sector and surveillance equipment companies. For example, on 2 April 2018, Who Profits documented security personnel of Israeli private security firm Reshef Security as well as surveillance equipment of HIK Vision, Evron Systems and Nisko make in Nabi Samuel National Park in the occupied West Bank.

[14] Emek Tzurim, for instance, includes the Temple Mount Sifting Project, where visitors sift through debris that may or may not have originated in construction work in Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif in 1999-2000, a process of questionable archeological or scientific value. See Emek Shaveh, “Archaeology on a Slippery Slope: Elad’s sifting project in Emek Tzurim National Park” alt-arch.org, September 2013.




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