- Aug 21, 2003
The residents of this dirt-poor Palestinian village waited decades for electricity. But in November, a Dutch-funded solar project finally gave them round-the-clock power to refrigerate food or do a load of laundry.
That ended last week when Israeli military administrators in the West Bank sent soldiers with assault rifles and a team of workers to shut down the $400,000 project, ripping out its electrical components and driving away with 96 solar panels, some of them broken, villagers said.
Israeli officials called the construction illegal, but the builders contested the charge, saying they are providing desperately needed humanitarian aid that is required under international law.
“It was a disaster. We are all in mourning,” said Fadia al-Wahsh, head of the local women’s committee, hours after the soldiers left, as villagers discussed how to save food and medicine from the stifling summer heat.
The confiscation was the latest round of a widening conflict between European donorsand the Israeli government over projects that benefit Palestinians in Area C, about 60 percent of the West Bank under full Israeli control.
Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Emmanuel Nahshon declined to comment in a text exchange but referred questions to Israel’s military Coordination of Government Activities in the Territories, known as COGAT. A spokesman for COGAT said in an email that the solar and electric panels were installed without the necessary permits.
COGAT said the parties involved could “file a request for releasing the equipment as long as the organization will promise that the illegal construction will not be established without the necessary permits again.”
The incident illustrates a Catch-22 in the West Bank: For years, Israel has denies most permit requests for Palestinian construction in Area C. But if Palestinians build homes or other structures without permits, Israeli authorities say the structures are subject to demolition because they lack permits.
The European Union said in a recent report that there has been an “exceptional upsurge” in seizures or demolitions of European-funded projects by the Israeli government, which faces pressure from Israeli settlers to shut them down.
The report said Israeli forces have seized or demolished 117 European-funded humanitarian projects for Palestinians from September through February — latrines, animal shelters, agricultural projects and emergency shelters for families displaced by Israeli home demolitions.
A May U.N. report said Israeli authorities reportedly rejected permits for 391 of the 428 requests for building in Palestinian communities in Area C in the first half of 2016, the most current figures available.
Most of the permits approved were reportedly issued by Israeli authorities to transfer Bedouin populations, the United Nations said.
Even in the fucked up situation over there this is pretty messed up stuff. Israel builds illegal settlements without consequences but somehow this is a real problem for them. It's still kind of hard to fathom why US support for Israel is so uniquely, and almost totally, unconditional and has been through a number of administrations.