Israel seizes solar panels donated by Dutch government

Israeli soldiers carried out raid on solar farm which allegedly did not have proper building permits

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Bethan McKernan, The Independent, 3 July 2017

The Netherlands has lodged a complaint with the Israeli government after dozens of Dutch solar panels donated to a West Bank village were confiscated by Israeli authorities.

The hybrid diesel and solar power electricity system was installed last year in remote Jubbet al-Dhib, a village home to 150 people in an area of the West Bank occupied by Israel.

The panels were not built with proper permits and permissions, the authorities said, confiscating equipment belonging to the £307,000 humanitarian project last week.

Critics points out that building permissions for new Palestinian homes and infrastructure are almost impossible to obtain.

The village mayor told Palestinian outlet Ma’an News that the panels were destroyed, although Comet-ME, the aid organisation which installed the panels, said that between 60 and 90 were taken away intact and other equipment at the site destroyed and left behind by Israeli forces.

The Dutch Foreign Ministry has asked for the equipment to be returned to Jubbet al-Dhib and is considering what “next steps can be taken”, according to a report in Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz published on Saturday.

The issue has sparked anger both in the Dutch government and in the Palestinian territories over how it was handled.

Cogat, the Israeli military agency responsible for coordinating Israeli policy in Palestinian areas, said that several work-stop orders were issued before the day of the raid. Villagers maintain that they did not know the site had been targeted until Israel Defence Force (IDF) soldiers showed up.

Of particular note is that Jubbet al-Dhib is very close to Israeli outpost villages – settlements illegal under both Israeli and international law – which enjoy a full connection to the main power grid.

Cogat said in a statement that the village had “other electricity sources” other than the “illegal electricity room”. Haaretz said that before the solar panel system was installed, the 150 residents relied on a couple of “old and noisy” diesel generators for three hours of power a day.

More than 300 structures in the occupied West Bank demolished by the Israeli authorities in 2016 were at least in part funded by the EU or international NGOs, an Israeli military official said earlier this year.

Last year also saw the highest number of Israeli demolitions of Palestinian structures since rights groups began records.

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Banksy’s Murals Turn Up In The Gaza Strip

Krishnadev Calamur, NPR, February 26, 2015

Banksy’s work is now in the Gaza Strip.

The artist, who uses public spaces for his often-provocative murals, posted images that he said were of art he created in the Gaza Strip, along with a two-minute video of life in the Palestinian territory, titled “Make this the year YOU discover a new destination.”

Here are some of the murals, which you can also see on Banksy’s own website.

Banksy writes about this image:

“A local man came up and said ‘Please — what does this mean?’ I explained I wanted to highlight the destruction in Gaza by posting photos on my website — but on the internet people only look at pictures of kittens.”

A mural is seen on the remains of a house that witnesses said was destroyed by Israeli shelling during a 50-day war last summer in Beit Hanoun in the northern Gaza Strip. Suhaib Salem/Reuters/Landov

And on his website, he writes about the mural below: “Gaza is often described as ‘the world’s largest open air prison’ because no-one is allowed to enter or leave. But that seems a bit unfair to prisons — they don’t have their electricity and drinking water cut off randomly almost every day.”

A mural on a wall in Beit Hanoun. Suhaib Salem/Reuters/Landov

Banksy is known for his political art that is often provocative. And these images, and the video below, are likely to have supporters as well as detractors given that they deal with the impact last year’s fighting between Hamas, which runs Gaza, and Israel had on the territory.

YouTube

The two-minute video has a line that reads: “If we wash our hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless we side with the powerful — we don’t remain neutral.”

Israel Bulldozes Democracy

AYMAN ODEH, The New York Times, February 11, 2017

A Bedouin woman reacts to the destruction of houses by Israeli authorities on January 18, 2017 in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, which is not recognized by the Israeli government, near the southern city of Beersheba, in the Negev desert. (Menahem Kahana/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

HAIFA, Israel — Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel is expected to visit Washington this week to meet with President Trump, presumably to discuss the political philosophy they share: power through hate and fear. A government that bars refugees and Muslims from entering the United States has much in common with one that permits Israeli settlers to steal land from Palestinians, as a new law that Mr. Netanyahu’s coalition pushed through Parliament last week did.

Like Mr. Trump, Mr. Netanyahu used blatant race-baiting tactics to win his last election, in 2015. Since then, he has made discrimination against Palestinian citizens of Israel central to his agenda. This takes many forms; a particularly painful one is his government’s racist, unjust land use and housing policies.

Arabs make up one-fifth of Israel’s population, yet only 2.5 percent of the state’s land is under Arab jurisdiction. And since the founding of the state, more than 700 new towns and cities have been built for Jews, while no new cities have been built for Arabs.

In Arab towns, the government has made building permits so difficult to obtain, and grants them so rarely, that many inhabitants have resorted to constructing new housing units on their properties without permits just to keep up with growing families that have nowhere else to go. As a result, Arab communities have become more and more densely populated, turning pastoral villages into concrete jungles.

In southern Israel, more than 100,000 Arab citizens face a particular crisis. In the Naqab desert, known in Hebrew as the Negev, there are 35 villages that are officially “unrecognized” by the state. The residents of these unrecognized villages have Israeli citizenship, yet the state has refused to provide even basic services like water, electricity utilities, paved roads and schools.

Worse, because the Israeli government refuses to recognize these villages’ existence, they all live under the shadow of demolition orders from the state. Residents never know when the police will come to evict them and bulldoze their homes.

These policies have existed for decades, but Mr. Netanyahu has turned them into a political bludgeon. Several weeks ago, when it became clear that the government would be forced to implement an Israeli High Court ruling to evacuate Amona, an illegal settlement in the occupied West Bank built on land stolen from Palestinians, Mr. Netanyahu vowed to destroy Arab homes throughout Israel in retribution.

The prime minister soon made good on his threat. That was why, a few weeks later, a huge force of armed police arrived to destroy homes in the unrecognized village of Umm al-Hiran.

I first visited Umm al-Hiran not long after I had been elected secretary general of the Hadash party. I spent several weeks living in the Naqab and took part in a nonviolent protest against the demolition of another village, Al Araqib. I was beaten by police and arrested. I had to call my wife, Nardin, from jail.

Ayman Odeh lays on the ground after he was injured during clashes that followed a demonstration against home demolition in the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran, near the southern city of Beersheba, in the Negev desert, early on January 18, 2017. (Keren Manor/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images)

After a long legal battle, the government has moved to destroy Umm al-Hiran so that a religious Jewish community can be built in its place. This new town would erase all traces of Arab presence, even replacing the town’s name with the more Hebrew-sounding Hiran.

The residents suggested a compromise: Create an Arab neighborhood within the new town so that their community could remain intact. The state rejected this idea: Hiran was to be for Jews only.

A few weeks ago, I had reason to call my wife from the Naqab again. This time, I was in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. On Jan. 18, as I stood with the residents of Umm al-Hiran, Israeli police who had arrived to demolish the village pepper-sprayed me and then shot me in the head and the back with baton rounds.

These bullets, which are about 3 inches long and 1.5 inches in diameter, have a hard plastic base and a high-density foam tip. Supposedly nonlethal, they have caused numerous serious injuries, including skull fractures and eye loss, and have been associated with at least one fatality. In my case, the bullet missed my eye and only grazed my skull.

More grave, police actions that day resulted in two deaths: Yakoub Abu al-Qai’an, a math teacher from Umm al-Hiran, was shot and killed while driving, and Erez Levi, a police officer, was hit by Mr. Abu al-Qai’an’s car after he was shot. The police put out a false narrative that this was a terror attack. The Joint List, the group I lead in the Knesset, Israel’s Parliament, has called for a full inquiry into the day’s events.

In the Naqab, the state claims “planning irregularities,” trespassing or environmental concerns as justification for refusing to recognize the villages and for destroying them. This is a grim farce. The reality for Arab citizens is Kafkaesque: The state refuses to create municipal plans to accommodate growing communities, and instead destroys homes that are built without permits it makes impossible to obtain.

Is this a way for a state to treat its citizens?

The government must meet the housing needs of Arab communities. I have proposed a two-year moratorium on demolishing illegally built homes, together with a public campaign to discourage illegal building. During that time, the state should create municipal plans for every Arab city and town and ensure that there is proper accommodation for expected growth.

This plan has the support of both relevant ministries. But Mr. Netanyahu is ignoring it, just as he ignores our proposal to recognize the Arab villages of the Naqab.

Treating the Arab population as an enemy within is racist in itself, but it is also a political maneuver. Mr. Netanyahu knows that his opponents on the left will not regain power without cooperating with Arab parties. The opposition Labor Party knows this, too. But instead of acting with integrity, Labor has mimicked Mr. Netanyahu’s strategy, treating us not as valued allies but as untouchables.

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Palestinians protest moving US embassy to Jerusalem

Israeli forces suppress weekly marches in Bilin, Kafr Qaddum

Ma’an News Agency, January 21, 2017

RAMALLAH (Ma’an) – Israeli forces Friday suppressed weekly marches held in the villages of Billin and Kafr Qaddum in the occupied West Bank districts of Ramallah and Qalqiliya.

In Bilin, the weekly march, which occur every Friday to protest the Israeli separation wall and illegal settlements, was launched in solidarity with the Bedouin village of Umm Hiran on Wednesday which was violently raided by Israeli forces on Wednesday, leaving a local teacher and an Israeli police officer killed, before Israeli forces carried out home demolitions in the village.

The demonstration was also centered on protesting President Donald Trump’s support of moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Palestinian and international solidarity activists held up Palestinian flags and signs condemning the potential embassy move and threatening an escalation of the resistance if such a decision is made.

As the demonstrators marched through the streets, they called for national unity, resisting the Israeli occupation, and releasing all Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

The popular resistance committee’s spokesperson Ratib Abu Rahma called upon Islamic, Arab, and all nations of the world to stop the new US administration from moving the embassy, while also urging Palestinian factions to unify their efforts to defend Palestine.

When the protestors reached the western part of the village near the separation wall, Israeli forces prevented them from marching on, declaring the area a military post and firing rubber bullets, sound bombs, and plastic bullets at protesters.

Abu Ahmad noted that Israeli forces detained Palestinian activist Ahmad Abu Rahma during the protest, but he was released afterwards.

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U.S. criticizes Israeli settlement expansion, demolitions


Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has been looking to improve its relations with the White House. (Amir Cohen/Reuters)

Ruth Eglash and Carol Morello, The Washington Post, July 28, 2016

JERUSALEM — The Israeli government’s plans to build new units in Jewish settlements in the West Bank and a spate of home demolitions in Palestinian areas over the past week have drawn sharp criticism from the Obama administration.

Israel “is systematically undermining the prospects for a two-state solution” with the Palestinians, State Department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement Wednesday.

“We strongly oppose settlement activity, which is corrosive to the cause of peace,” the statement said.

Separately, Kirby also said Secretary of State John F. Kerry will travel to Paris for a meeting Saturday with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority. The purpose of their talks, the spokesman said, is to explore whether it is possible to “make progress on creating conditions where a two-state solution can be realized.”

The strongly worded State Department statement was widely seen as a warning to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government, which is renegotiating a multibillion-dollar military aid package with the United States and has been looking to improve its relations with the White House.

Netanyahu’s office did not respond to the statement.

“We are witnessing a signal from the Americans to Netanyahu that they do not like what they see,” said Hagit Ofran, director of the Settlement Watch team for the left-wing Israeli human rights organization Peace Now.

“The fact that there are elections in the U.S. might be perceived in Israel as an opportunity to get away with things, but this is the Americans saying, ‘We are still watching you,’ ” Ofran said.

Kirby’s statement focused on Israeli government plans to build 770 units in the East Jerusalem settlement of Gilo. The international community views Gilo as Palestinian territory occupied by Israel.

Plans to build in Gilo have been a point of contention between Israel and the Obama administration. In March 2010, during a visit by Vice President Biden, a tender issued for the construction of a housing project in Gilo sparked a mini-crisis between the two allies. Additional construction announcements seem to have been made at strategic points over the years, such as when Israel released the first batch of long-held Palestinian prisoners as part of the now-defunct U.S.-brokered peace process in 2014.

“By condemning building in Gilo, the administration repeats its initial mistake in the peace process. It is creating a demand that no Israeli government can meet and no Palestinian leader can ignore,” said Michael Oren, a former Israeli ambassador to the United States who is a member of parliament from the ruling coalition.

“Nobody in Israel views Gilo as a settlement, but once the administration demands a freeze in Gilo, then no Palestinian leader can demand anything less,” he said. “Gilo is a deal-breaker.”

In its statement, the State Department also criticized Israeli plans to build 323 units in East Jerusalem, expand settlements in the West Bank and retroactively legalize an Israeli outpost near Ramallah.

“We have been seeing more and more settlements built in the past few years and increased demolitions of Palestinian property recently,” said Jamal Dajani, director of communications for Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah.

Dajani was referring to demolitions of a dozen Palestinian homes this week in East Jerusalem. The demolitions, which Israel said were intended to weed out illegal buildings, left many families homeless. The Palestinians said building permits are often rejected for residents of these areas.

“We support the State Department’s statement,” Dajani said. “It is about time we hear this from the U.S. The whole international community is condemning these Israeli actions. They are a violation of the Geneva convention, which specifically prohibits the occupying power from transferring people in the areas it is occupying.”

The State Department’s statement also raised concerns about “increased demolitions of Palestinian structures in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.”

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