The board overseeing the MBTA and the Massachusetts Department of Transportation has today approved MBTA General Manager Beverly A. Scott’s recommendation to accept the bid of Keolis, a French controlled railroad company, to take over the contract for running the MBTA’s commuter rail system.  Keolis will replace the current contract holder, the Massachusetts Bay Commuter Railroad Co. (MBCR), which has run the system for the past decade. 

Perhaps because there were only two bidders for this contract, the contest has been unusually vicious, with charges and counter-charges of complicity in the Holocaust, discriminatory labor policies in Europe, and inadequate performance.  In addition, local supporters of the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions Movement (BDS) have pursued a misleading campaign to “derail” Veolia, one of the parent companies (along with Bombadier and Alternate Concepts) of MBCR, on account of Veolia’s business activities in Israel and the West Bank.

Because of these concerns, JCRC has engaged in extensive direct communication with the MBTA and both companies over the course of the bidding process this past year, and we are confident that this contract recommendation is based entirely on the needs of commuters and the long-term health of the Massachusetts transportation system.  As MBTA spokesman Joe Pesaturo has said in a recent statement, “The process was designed to ensure the best value for the public, MBTA customers and the Authority.  The evaluation process involved an assessment of operations and management as well as costs and other financial components.”  Given these parameters, we at JCRC have no opinion about the outcome of this bidding process.

MBTA officials have made it clear that Veolia’s work in Israel had no bearing on their decision to reject their bid for a contract renewal;  Furthermore, Keolis’s parent company, the National Society of French Railroads (SNCF), has, like Veolia, extensive and productive business dealings with Israel, having recently signed a contract to “transform Israel Railways into a modern and service-oriented railway operator.”

The self-aggrandizing claim that BDS activists played any role in this decision is part of a consistent pattern among those who seek to demonize Israel to distort reality and to claim “victory” on the basis of decisions that are entirely unconnected to their narrow concerns.  This tendency to prevaricate belies their true motivation, which is not a secure peace agreement between two sovereign nations—or even improved commuter rail service in Greater Boston—but the disparagement of the State of Israel.

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